On Saturday, October 30th, the town formally said goodbye to two of its longest serving employees with a heartfelt toasting and some gentle roasting, too.
Janet Stowell, the head Lister, and Diane Osgood, the Town Zoning Administrator and Lister, are both retiring. October 29th was Diane’s official last day. Janet will continue to serve until Town Elections in March 2022 but will not seek re-election. However, she will not be at Town Hall in person after mid-November, when she and her husband, George Stowell, head down to Florida for the next four months. Working remotely during this period has been Janet’s custom for years.
Diane and Janet go back way before either of them set foot in the Listers’ office. They both attended Thetford Academy and were a class or so apart.
Diane has served as a Lister for 17 years. She’s also worn other hats in Town Hall as Selectboard Assistant, Listers’ assistant, Zoning Assistant, and then Zoning Administrator. She is well respected in all her roles for her impeccable attention to detail and ability to organize anything from offices to Christmas parties. One of the things she loved most about being a lister was meeting all sorts of people. This year she worked especially hard as Zoning Assistant, Zoning Administrator, and Lister. In addition, since the retirement of the Listers’ clerk, Diane and Janet have together covered the clerk’s duties on top of their other jobs.
Diane is relocating to a residential community near Orlando, Florida. Incidentally, it is the same community where Janet spends the four months of Vermont winter. Diane will now be living just up the street. The community is attached to a park next to a lake that offers recreational opportunities such as boating, sea planes, and a pavilion for events. It is also close to a city with all the urban amenities, like shopping.
Diane is looking forward to relaxing, gardening in a place where just about anything will grow, and getting acquainted with her new community where, by all accounts, people are welcoming and really look out for one other.
Janet will be a hard act for anyone to follow. She has been a lister for 34 years and has accumulated a trove of experience, information, and institutional memory. She was also a Level 1 firefighter and EMT for ten years starting in 1986 and Thetford’s first female volunteer firefighter.
When Janet started as a Lister 34 years ago, Town Hall consisted only of the historic brick section of today’s building. The white clapboard addition was not built until 2001. Janet fondly remembers that the Listers’ office was “like a closet” that somehow managed to accommodate the big wooden table that we see in their present office. Janet reminisced that they were forever squeezing around that table in the course of their work.
Back then the Listers’ job was to collect data on properties, including the type of construction, quality of materials, general condition, etc. They recorded the required information on large data cards. Batches of the completed cards were shipped to the State Appraisers’ Office in Waterbury. At the end of the year, the Town would receive a big green book that contained the appraised values of all properties in town.
Things slowly changed with the advent of computers. Listers were then able to compile their data using a database in DOS. In 2002 Listers were introduced to a Windows-based valuation program called Pro-Val, and the Listers’ duties increased to include assessment of property values.
The value of all property in town is updated every year to take into account new buildings, subdivisions, additions, remodeling, and other improvements. This information is pulled together in the town’s Grand List that is used to calculate property taxes each year.
According to Janet, deciding the appraised value of a property can be tricky. So-called “sales chasing” — using the sale of a property to trigger a reappraisal at or near the selling price — is not permitted. Instead, the Listers have to determine if the property value has appreciated by independent means. They glean data from home improvement permits, etc. Information may have to be obtained by inspection from the exterior only, since homeowners do not have to allow Listers inside their house.
We will greatly miss the expertise, judgment, and experience of these dedicated, long-time public servants. We are sorry to see them depart. Many thanks to Diane and Janet — we wish them all the best in their next adventures.
And Janet, if you’re back in Thetford after the winter, maybe you’ll consider a little consulting to help the next generation of Listers who will take their seats around that big table.
Photo credit: Li Shen