Jenny Dewar, founder of PBN

Jenny

How we came to Pownal

My parents built their home here in Pownal almost 25 years ago in the mid 90s.  In 2006, my husband, John and I started looking at homes as a long term future plan to help care for my mom who lived with Early Onset Alzheimer’s for 20 years. We quickly fell in love and decided not to wait so we impulsively put our home on the market. When it sold five weeks later, we moved to Pownal. I walked away from a successful career as a Broadway Stage Manager (15 shows over 10 years) to move here and the city girl evaporated the day I first awoke here in this beautiful valley with the rising of the sun. 

Finding my place in Pownal
I first became involved in Pownal “politics” when we discovered that an out of town company was trying to build a Bio-Mass facility at the old race track. We researched all the issues, especially health issues, and helped form a grassroots organization that successfully took the option off of the table. I took a bit of flack at the time but I believe most people understand now that this would have been a major health hazard and offered no jobs to Pownal residents. Just a lot of money in the pockets of people who already have a lot of money. 

I created this site to help Pownal businesses and business owners have more visibility online. The next plan is to take an ad on the Southern Vermont Discover Map and put all of our businesses on the map together. Pownal has a lot going on!

This came from several months of working on the Empower Pownal initiatives over the past year. I found the Empower Pownal exercise to be very exciting and enjoyed meeting neighbors and sharing ideas on how to keep Pownal flourishing and embrace our future. Several committees were formed and I have the privilege of being the chair of the Economic Development Task Force. We had a wonderful discussion at our first meeting and realized that networking was something that would be beneficial to everyone. Rich Smith and I put together the first meeting of the Pownal Business Network where multiple business owners came to the Legion and had a meet and greet. We launched the website that evening and have been accumulating more and more information since then.

Work History
My work as a stage manager involved, amongst many other things, being the liaison between cast, crew, producers, general managers, directing and design teams, and the front of house. This group of people encompasses several different unions and personalities and the stage manager’s job is to make each person or group feel that they are the most important piece of the puzzle! It was a great surprise to the community when I announced that I was moving on to the next chapter of life. I have never looked back.

I quickly landed at Williams College and for several years served as the Concert and Event Manager, Orchestra Manager and Visiting Artist Coordinator for the Department of Music. For the Department of Theatre, I mentored theatre students in stage management and their career directions. I also directed several large scale events while at the college.

While in the music department, I oversaw budgets, creating new branding and marketing strategies, and negotiated and created contracts with the Visiting Artists and the professional musicians hired for the Berkshire Symphony. During my time and efforts there, we raised the audience sizes exponentially. 

When my father passed away unexpectedly two years after my mom leaving nothing but a whole lot of debt and financial mess, I left my jobs and focused completely on the creation and running  of Karin’s Place, a retreat/inn that sleeps 30. My dad had the addition built even though it was well beyond his means. (Smoke and mirrors anyone!?) Now I am grateful that he did. This is the perfect culmination of everything else in my past. He did not leave me a life of financial ease (why should he?) but he left me an opportunity to turn lemons into limoncello! My daily work goes from washing and ironing 30 sets of linens to marketing and accounting. The result is that I now spend the majority of my time here in Pownal as I  both live and run my business here. 

Volunteering for My Communities
I have thrown myself into volunteer work since I could walk. My kindergarten teachers wrote that I would do well to stop worrying about helping my neighbors and focus on myself. I guess 5 year olds really do know what they are about! 

Over the years, I cycled in four Aids Rides raising thousands of dollars for people living with Aids. Coming from the theatre community, this was near and dear to my heart. I have lost countless friends and colleagues to HIV/Aids and I knew that this was something I could do.

I have volunteered for years with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids soliciting money from audience members, serving as backstage crew for benefits and events, and sitting on the board to determine how the millions raised got distributed to organizations all over the country. 

At Williams, I sat on various committees and sub-committees with the goal of raising woefully low salaries, fighting for the rights of the staff, and pushing back against the hierarchy that I found so prevalent in the world of academia. I worked with students on their activism and shared time schooling them about HPV and Cervical Cancer being a survivor myself. 

I am very proud that we have moved forward to create Discover Pownal. We are seeking a 501(c)3 so that any finances are completely transparent to any interested parties.

My work on the Select Board
My volunteer work in and for the Pownal community has inspired me to serve in our town government.  As a small business owner with such a varied career background, I have both management and financial expertise that I believe translates well to the duties of our Select Board.  The main functions of our Select Board are:

  • Legislative – enacts local ordinances, regulations and policies;
  • Administrative – prepares and presents the budget, oversees all town expenditures, supervises personnel and controls town buildings and property;
  • Quasi-judicial – determines private rights in such areas as laying out, discontinuing and reclassifying highways and hearing appeals as the local board of health and as the local liquor control commission.

I care deeply about this town and the people in this town. I think all major policies need serious thought and consideration. I regularly listen, learn, and collaborate to come to fair decisions. I am not afraid of confrontation and debate. We are a small town but our population is as diverse as anywhere else. How boring we would be if this was not the case! I enjoy being a part of paving the future of our town and staying current and relevant with the rest of the state without being taken over by chains and franchises! I love our farms and thriving small businesses. I enjoy helping to grow our community awareness and interactions. 

Educational History:
I graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in English Literature and minors in Mathematics and Dance. I did my masters work at New York University as well as various Continuing Ed Courses. Continued learning and education have always been an essential part of my being and I now enjoy auditing classes at Williams College. 

The community we have found in Pownal has enriched our lives tremendously and we co-exist with 16 animals! 9 cats, 4 chickens, and 3 goats. 

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Note:

This page has not been linkable for months now but apparently it was still live so if you have saved it, you will have still seen it. Just to be completely clear, the campaign part of the page was posted PRIOR to my joining the Select Board and I had no idea it was linked to the Town Website. I unlinked the campaign page the moment I took my seat on the Board.

Discover Pownal has nothing to do with my participation in our town government. I have removed the language of the campaign. Hope that helps those whom are confused.