It all started with a downed tree. In most places, if you see a tree blocking a road, most people would back up, find another way around and wait for the town to pick it up.
But on that day in Vermont, it was a story.
Michael Talbott was driving in Rutland on the first day he moved to Vermont. Rather than driving around the tree, Talbott saw another person going to move the tree, so he chose to get out of his car as well and help.
That’s when Talbott knew he had an opportunity to make a difference here.
“That sort of summarized what Rutland, Vermont was all about for me,” he said. “It’s a place where I can jump in, work with people who are here, who are also engaged, and we can make things happen.”
Talbott, chair of the media and communication department at Castleton University, is well into his campaign for a position on the Board of Aldermen.
Professor Dave Blow, who has worked with Talbott for six years and was part of the search committee that brought him to Castleton, spoke highly of his decision to run for alderman.
“He seems to bite off a lot of tasks, tasks that others probably don’t want to do, he seemingly agrees to do all this stuff and always does things well,” Blow said.
For Talbott, one of the main ideas he hopes to bring to the Board of Aldermen is bridging the gap between Castleton University and the city of Rutland. With many Castleton interns taking opportunities in Rutland, Talbott hopes to further coordinate resources between the city of Rutland and its local university.
“I feel like that’s important. That’s a thing that has existed and at times that bond has been really strong. I think that could be stronger,” he said.
Blow agreed with Talbott’s ideas.
“I think it would be beneficial for both students and the Rutland community,” he said. “[The board] may not know some of the resources that are available to them through the college.”
Former student Tiffany Saltis praised Talbott for always striving to connect Castleton students to the Rutland area.
“Michael isn’t interested in seeing students solely succeed in the classroom. He’s deeply invested in watching them lay a foundation outside the Castleton campus,” she said.
And with his connection to the university, Saltis believes Talbott’s efforts to find opportunities for students in Rutland could be a benefit to the city.
“[He’s] been that bridge connecting students to local jobs, simultaneously boosting the workforce and providing economic growth for the community. He makes it possible for students to remain in the area who may have otherwise sought a career elsewhere.
But he also hopes to energize the city of Rutland and do what he can to help it grow.
“I already feel like I’m doing a lot of things to help ensure Rutland has a vibrant future and I think I could do it even more effectively from a board seat,” he said.
Talbott has been working in the media and communication department for six years. He teaches a variety of classes in the department ranging from cinema studies to podcasting and popular culture. He also serves as the chair of the department, an advisor to many students, and has served on multiple faculty committees.
By taking in all of this experience and knowledge at Castleton University, Talbott believes it has prepared him to take on the position of Alderman.
“What I can bring to the board is the ability to work well with others. That’s a big part of what I have to do here [at Castleton],” he said. “I think I’m particularly good at listening to others, understanding their interests and desires, and figuring out ways to coordinate our efforts to work together.”
Talbott went on to discuss how as a teacher he must work well with students, and as a faculty member and chair of his department, he has to work well with colleagues and other department chairs. He mentioned that the committees he’s worked on at Castleton have the familiar objective of working together with others to reach a common goal.
He also moved to Rutland from a much different atmosphere. Talbott, who grew up in Los Angeles, hopes he can use his contrasting experiences in a large city to bring new ideas to Rutland.
“The nature of living in a big city is you’re exposed to lots of different ideas. You see different people doing things in different ways, so that’s made me super open to exploring what I don’t know,” Talbott said.
Talbott is well respected on the Castleton campus. From a colleague’s perspective, Blow has gotten to know him well over their time working together.
“He likes leading. He’s very meticulously planned out, and again, what I’ve noticed is you don’t outwork Michael,” he said.
But for Talbott, who smiled as his talked about his passion for the city of Rutland, is prepared for the opportunity.
“Rutland is my home. It’s where I put down roots, it’s where I’m going to stay,” he said.
“I want to preserve the unique character that drew me to Rutland, but I also recognize that Rutland needs to adapt and grow if it wants a vibrant future.”