From The Archives: Town Meeting; Killington Secedes

Mar 13, 2014

Credit / Flickr/Creative Commons

It’s town meeting time! A storied tradition in northern New England, and in New Hampshire especially. This week I found an old interview with Dartmouth College professor of history, Jere Daniell. He spoke with an unidentified NHPR reporter in July, 1994. Daniell has made close study of our town meeting and the history of the institution.

The roots of town meeting go back three centuries and have evolved over time. Once viewed as an extension of the old boys network which governed many towns, it enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in the early 20th century. 

Despite its storied history, Daniell said that predictions of the demise of Town Meeting are almost as old as Town Meeting itself.

Weathering the changes of popular favor, and adjusting to serve the needs of the time have only strengthen our perennial gatherings.

The tradition of Town Meeting extends west of the Connecticut River, which brings us to the town of Killington, Vermont, which has always endured a bit of an identity crisis. For decades the town once known as Sherburne was better known for the ski area that was its main attraction. During town meeting in 1999, they voted to officially change their name to Killington. Think of the letterhead, in fact the Sherburne Elementary School and Sherburne Volunteer Fire Department were not renamed until several years later. 

But that was not the end of the identity crisis, at town meeting ten years ago this month, the town of Killington passed a motion to secede from the state of Vermont, and join (or rejoin) New Hampshire. To actualize this motion would also require the consent of both state legislatures as well as the U.S. Congress, which never transpired.

The Exchange discussed the topic in March, 2004. Then Program Director, Mike Arnold, was in the host chair for Laura Knoy who was on maternity leave.