On March 3, 2021

Stratton town report cover draws attention for all the wrong reasons

By Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

Stratton Town Clerk D. Kent Young was assembling the annual municipal report when, lacking such past cover photos as a local elder or landscape, he eyed a bulletin-board message that began, “You came here from there because you didn’t like there, and now you want to change here to be like there.”

Young figured it might spur a few nods among the 230 locals who consistently are outnumbered by visitors to the sprawling Stratton Mountain Resort. Then one passerby shared the resulting cover on social media.

“Holy moly,” New York Times reporter Ellen Barry tweeted to her 44,000 followers.

Now the town clerk is saying that, too.

“I apologize to anyone who was offended or affected by it,” Young stated. “It was definitely a stupid decision. I just didn’t think it through.”

The town clerk, who first won appointment in 1999 and election in 2000, says his regrets spring from a knowing place: He came here from there, too. The Midwest native served in the U.S. Navy before moving to Vermont from New Jersey a quarter-century ago.

“Most of the town is somebody who came from somewhere else and appreciates the lifestyle,” he said.

Young has produced two decades of town report covers, with last year’s picturing a rare sighting of four moose. But the current pandemic seemingly sent everyone out of camera range.

“I didn’t have a good picture,” he said.

And so the town clerk pasted in the bulletin-board message, which continues, “We are not racist, phobic or anti-whatever-you-are, we simply like here the way it is and most of us actually came here because it is not like there, wherever there was. You are welcome here, but please stop trying to make here like there. If you want here to be like there you should not have left there to come here, and you are invited to leave here and go back there at your earliest convenience.”

Inside, a caption identifies the cover as “The Vermont Constitution” before adding, “We’re joking, but certainly interesting prose.”

Too interesting, the town discovered when Barry — visiting the state to write an article about the Slate Ridge weapons training facility in Pawlet — tweeted the town report cover late Tuesday night, Feb. 23.

The reaction was swift from followers (“I’m guessing the ski resort did not approve this language,” one posted) and a longtime state commentator.

“Translate this message into bumper sticker, you get ‘Don’t New York My Vermont,’ a message of intolerance and resistance to change,” Vermont Political Observer blogger John Walters opined. “But those outsiders are keeping your little burg afloat.”

The town clerk has seen the criticism. “It’s getting some bad publicity,” Young said, “with a lot of people taking it as a slam or statement against anyone moving to Vermont.”

It doesn’t help that the message, a longtime staple on social media, has sparked charges of xenophobia when posted in other communities nationwide.

“I didn’t mean to get anyone upset,” Young said. “I strive to be the most friendly and helpful office I can be.”

And so the town clerk offered no excuses or winding explanations. Instead, he simply voiced his regrets, which he repeated when asked if there was anything left unsaid. “I apologize,” Young replied. “I wish I had found a picture of a flower.”

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