According to Marty Gillies and Morgan Eaton, there is no average day for a town intern.
“Being able to come in and not knowing what I’m going to get to do; that variability is really cool,” said Eaton, a Colchester native attending Syracuse University who’s spent his summer as one of the town interns.
Although Eaton says he’s still undecided what path he’ll take in school, he says he’s interested in public policy. As a former Get Engaged student, Eaton sat on the Colchester Development Review board as a high school student and was able to build relationships with town staff, leading him to this internship.
“If you know what’s going on and you know everybody, you’re well informed,” said Eaton, of the differences between small and large town government. “Whereas in a larger city, you might not get everyone you want to come out to a public forum and hear what you’re saying. In a small town environment you’re able to poll everybody, get opinions, and that allows you to craft a plan or solution that’s mutually beneficial; something that really creates a nice environment within Colchester and other small towns.”
Gillies, who has been interning in the Planning and Zoning department, agreed, noting how their roles are more fluid and they’re able to reach across departments to lend help. “We’re getting involved with a lot more stuff,” he said. “As far as resume-building goes, that’s better. Instead of being solely the permit guy, I get to do everything.”
This “behind the scenes” work, as they call it, could mean permitting, pulling up a file on a specific land parcel, scanning town maps, conducting background research, or driving around with the Town Assessor. “It’s kind of cool the work we’re doing—it’s not as glamorous but it’s the stuff that allows the town to function day to day,” said Gillies.
As an environmental studies major at University of Vermont, Gillies became interested in the internship through his passion for urban planning and transportation. “They’re both pretty important for environmental reasons,” he said. “Almost half of Vermont’s emissions come from transportation.”
But while he thought his time would be spent learning about urban planning, he found himself neck deep in wastewater.
“All of a sudden we got hit with this wastewater issue,” he said, referring to the failed sewer line vote earlier this year and the Planning Commission’s task of finding other solutions to the town’s wastewater woes. “I think they were really expecting it to go through in March, but it didn’t. It was kind of like code red, all hands on deck. So it’s been really interesting to be involved with that effort; everyone working towards the same goal.”
Eaton’s responsibilities are a little more fluid, as his role serves the Planning and Zoning Department, the town Assessor, and the town Clerk.
“I’m blown away when I talk to someone who works here and I see how much overlap they have between departments,” he said. “You have someone in the planning office and they know what’s going on in economic development, and they can direct you to a specific person in Parks and Rec. There’s a community of knowledge.”