Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Outstanding in Her Feld(man)

The news has hit the streets.  The bells have stopped ringing.  The sound trucks have gone back to their garages.  And life, for most people, has returned to its normal, dog-days-of-summer rhythm.

But the reality has only just now begun to sink in here at the Vermont Arts Council.  Rachel Feldman—our social- and broadcast-media queen, our communications maven, our “Chicago Manual of Style-or-else” poster child—is moving up the street, up the hill, and up the ladder.  In a few short weeks she will begin her new position as Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s new Chief of Staff.

It goes without saying that any transition is an opportunity to (re)consider the total system of an organization: are our human and financial resources aligned in such a way to make the most effective use of them? Do the people answering questions from constituents or the media have access to the best, most relevant information? Are there issues that, in the year since we last hired someone new, have risen to a more urgent priority and thus we need to cast our net for someone with a slightly different set of skills?

I’ll be honest.  Rachel’s departure leaves a whopper of a hole in our staff.  Replacing her is not an option because, honestly, she is irreplaceable.  But two things I know for sure.

First, we will be hiring someone new to cover as much of the terrain that Rachel covered as possible, with a few changes to the job description to keep it, and us, current.  That person will be outstanding, I’m sure.  He or she will bring new skills, new ideas, and new “best practices” that we intend to make the most of. But Rachel’s tiny feet leave large footprints…

Second, Lt. Governor Phil Scott’s office is going to take on a whole new personality.  Don’t misunderstand me. There was nothing wrong with what he was doing before. But if our experience with the “Rachel Feldman phenomenon” is any indicator, Phil Scott will soon be trending on Twitter, hashtagging his public appearances, learning to keep his sound-bites to under 140 characters, (re)connecting daily with all of his Vermont voters on Facebook,  and yes, ignoring the Oxford comma.

Rachel, some cynics will complain that your time with us was way too short, and truthfully, I would agree with them.  But I’m not a cynic.  Your time with us was time well spent; for you, for us, and for Vermont!* 

We were lucky to have you for as long as we did.  Good luck and Godspeed. 

*Don’t even THINK about getting rid of that last comma!