On March 15, 2023

Devon Neary promotes pride of place

Director of Rutland Regional Planning Commission lives his passion for Rutland, shares his vision with others

By Liz DiMarco Weinmann

It was in March of last year that Devon Neary first contacted me, with a thank-you note on Facebook, in response to an op-ed I had written about the accomplishments of the region’s emerging leaders. At the time, Neary was a Rutland City alderman and a transportation planner for the Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC).

Neary’s note was so earnest, the antithesis of a bureaucrat’s tortuous “talking points,” that I was compelled to learn more about him. When he was named executive director of RRPC in July 2022, succeeding Ed Bove, everyone seemed to cheer the choice.

From observing Neary’s work, and in speaking with those who appreciate his vision and leadership style, I quickly learned why: Devon Neary is an authentically enthusiastic community leader, a pragmatic public servant dedicated to helping the Rutland region thrive for decades to come.

Neary’s love for all things Rutland seems to have no bounds. As he told me in a recent interview, “I am the poster child for young folks who might be considering a move to Rutland, a place where they can make good friends, and start a family.”

At its core, the Rutland Regional Planning Commission provides the essential resources our region needs to make smart decisions — about land use, economic development, technology, energy, transportation, and emergency management.  In a recent interview, Devon Neary augmented that summary. 

“We are the steady straight-moving ship,” Neary said. He added, “We are the regional glue that connects our municipalities, no matter what changes or personal dynamics might occur.  We do the work, but we make it very reflective of the values of the individual communities we serve, because that’s more effective for long term sustainable growth,” he clarified.       

Former longstanding Project Vision chair Joe Kraus, whom Neary considers a mentor and role model, had this to say about Neary: “Devon has a big heart and a wisdom beyond his years.  When I wonder where our world is heading, I think of Devon and others like him, and I know that we will be fine.”

When I asked Neary how he would “pitch” the Rutland region to a visitor who might be skeptical about relocating here, he replied with his customary positivity — but also with candor.   

“Yes, there are challenges, but opportunities abound here,” Neary began, “and the RRPC is leading community-based planning efforts that highlight our towns’ unique cultural, historical and recreational assets, all of which contribute to our high quality of life.”

To that point, Neary is justifiably proud of several emerging RRPC programs. They include a municipal energy resilience program, which will fund energy efficiency and weatherization for local and municipal buildings, and a department of environmental conservation, to improve the health of Vermont’s rivers and lakes.  

An avid outdoorsman, Neary especially enjoys biking and skiing. His training in environmental law (Neary has a master’s from Vermont Law and Graduate School) reflects his personal pursuits as well as his professional policy focus.

“I’ve always been drawn to the natural world,” Neary explained. “My work enables me to facilitate generational protection, so that others can have the opportunity to appreciate the natural wonders of Vermont for decades to come.”

For people who like to exercise by walking, running, and hiking, as well as biking, RRPC is working with the Vermont Agency of Transportation on a bicycle and pedestrian initiative, to create safe, accessible and walkable downtowns and village centers.

Rutland Town resident Paul Gallo, who has been driving the completion of an extensive bike/walking path that includes a large area near Rutland Recreation Center, applauds Neary’s efforts.

“Devon Neary is very dialed in on the needs and wants of the next couple of generations,” said Gallo, “especially those who will choose Vermont as their go-to destination for clean air, natural beauty, and outdoor recreation.”

Considering all the good that RRPC does for the Rutland region, Neary concedes that the organization needs to do a better job of promoting its accomplishments.

“We are in the initial stages of updating our strategic plan for the region,” Neary explained. “We’re using a variety of forums to inform and engage as many people as possible in the process, including underrepresented people in underrepresented places,” he added.

Over the past eight months since he took the helm at RRPC, Neary has added several newcomers to augment the organization’s talents. Of his recruitment and mentoring style, Neary says, “It’s all about the people. I have learned to hire and develop the person, not just the skillset.”

With his wholesome and outdoorsy good looks, plus his love of everything that is right about a small town like Rutland, Neary could star in a Hallmark movie. He could play the rugged ex-boyfriend, the sweet hometown guy whose heart the heroine broke when she left for the Big Glamorous Job in the Big Bad City. Of course, over the span of just two hours, they eventually find their happily-ever-after, together.

In real life, Neary is engaged — Marisa, his fiancé is a fifth-grade teacher — and the way he described the lovely home they will share, all but guarantees their own happily-ever-after.

For all but the most persistent naysayers, Devon Neary is a bright beacon of positivity — a dedicated public servant focused on a grand purpose, that of promoting pride of place; a place that he and many others consider home.  

As he aptly put it at the end of our interview, “To work and live in a place I feel very connected to, is a gift.”       

For more information visit: RutlandRPC.org. 

Liz DiMarco Weinmann, MBA, is principal and owner of Liz DiMarco Weinmann Consulting, L3C, based in Rutland, serving charitable and educational institutions: lizdimarcoweinmann.com.

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