HARDWICK — As a Vermont State Trooper, David Upson Jr. has served multiple communities, but now he’s hanging up the uniform to focus on just one.
He’s the new Hardwick Town Manager.
“I love Hardwick. I grew up here. I know the ins and outs and a lot of people,” Upson said. “It’s a great community and I’m honored to be able to do this.”
The select board voted on Sept. 16 to offer him the job and he accepted. Upson’s last day with the state police is Friday. He’ll begin working for the town on Monday.
He said he didn’t want to waste any time getting to work for the town.
“I’ve worked for a good majority of the towns in the Northeast Kingdom,” he said. “I think it’s time for me to focus my attention on the community I live in and the community I’m going to raise my children in.”
Upson, who turns 40 in October, is a Hardwick native, graduating in 1999 from Hazen Union High School, where he played baseball and soccer. Except for brief periods during college years, he has lived in the town his entire life. A nickname he got as a youth stuck; many people in town still call him “Opie.”
Upson became a trooper in 2012. Prior to that, he was involved in overseeing water and wastewater systems.
At Johnson State College he had minored in criminal justice and had a desire to be a game warden. The opportunity to pursue a career as a warden didn’t present itself, but when he learned the state police were hiring and that he could put his experience as a scuba diver to use through the VSP dive team, he applied.
“They sold me on the scuba team,” he said.
In his nine years as a trooper, he served the communities covered by both Northeast Kingdom barracks. Recently he’s been assigned to the Derby barracks.
“It has been hugely rewarding and I’m going to miss it,” Upson said of his time as a trooper.
In particular, he said he found the counseling aspect of law enforcement rewarding.
“Just helping people work through crisis,” he said. “Trying to empower them to fix their own problems and know they are in control of their life. We see people on their worst days. You’ve got to be able to care about people to be able to do this job.”
He praised the leadership of Lt. Debra Munson at the Derby barracks and said VSP as a whole is a quality organization.
“They are one of the premier agencies in the country,” he said. “They’re doing all the right things for their communities.”
When the town manager position opened up, a fellow community member suggested to Upson that he should go for it.
“A member of the community said, ‘I think you’d be a great town manager,’ and then I thought about it and decided ‘you know, I think I would be too,’” said Upson.
He said his wife supported the idea, and when it became known that he had applied, other people encouraged him.
He said people appreciate his “approachability.”
This quality, departing interim Town Manager Jon Jewett said, will serve Upson well.
“You need to have a good personality, to listen to people and communicate well,” Jewett said. “You work for everybody … it’s important to offer them an open door.”
“I think David can handle that (communication). He was on the front lines with the state police so he had to speak to people daily in a lot of tough situations,” he said.
Upson said he’s grateful that Jewett has agreed to stick around and guide Upson a bit as he begins the job.
“I’m going to hang out and help him as long as he can stand having me around,” said Jewett.
Jewett has many years of experience as Hardwick’s town manager, having served from 2010 to 2018. He’s also been filling the role since May as an interim manager until the board found a permanent person.
He talked about several important near-term projects that need to happen in the town to include, library expansion, work on the water and wastewater systems, significant paving in town next year and fixing/replacing the “swinging bridge.” He also said there are many community organizations that need the support of the municipal leadership.
“This is a pretty complicated job,” he said.
Upson was chosen from among 18 applicants for the job, and Jewett said he seems like the right fit.
“I’d like to help him and I’d like to see him succeed,” he said.
Upson said he’s looking forward to managing the growth of the town he loves.
“I’m focused on helping Hardwick grow in a sustainable way, and the more you plan for it the less it takes you by surprise,” he said.