Vern Maxfield has filled multiple positions during his 31-year-tenure as Woodstock’s town manager. (Amanda Komulainen)

Crediting his interest in local government to his mother’s passion for politics, Vern Maxfield has served as town manager of Woodstock for 31 years. As a local leader, he firmly believes the future of a nation is determined by its citizens and that the function of family ultimately inspires the function of government. He has lived in downtown Norway since February 1989 with his wife of 41 years, Brenda.

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I was born Aug. 5, 1955, in Bridgton, Maine, and grew up in Harrison. I had one brother who died when he was 27. My father was a builder and that led to his caretaking summer cottages. My mother was very active in town politics and in state and federal elections as well. She had a strong belief in local government and supporting our country by being active in it.

As a teenager, I was interested in following elections and making sure people got out to vote. I distinctly remember going to the local fire station for the annual town meeting and having to look through the cigarette smoke to see everything. I was fascinated by the moderator and thought it would be interesting to do something like that.

I attended high school at Oxford Hills High School in South Paris, frequently traveling back and forth from Bridgton as I was doing a lot of odd jobs in the area. After graduation, I started my own lawn and garden business. College just didn’t interest me back then. I was interested in local government, and that’s where my thoughts stayed.

Brenda and I graduated in the same class, but didn’t formally meet until four years later. She worked with a mutual friend of ours who lived about a mile away from where I grew up. Brenda moved in with her when her parents moved out of South Paris. That friend played matchmaker.

I proposed to Brenda on May 18, 1977, and we were married on my birthday. A big part of why we did that was that I was born on my grandparents’ anniversary. I was also the first grandchild. Brenda and I are both very family-oriented, and we thought it would be a great way to honor my grandparents.

Our oldest daughter, Laura, was born four and a half years later. I helped my dad build our first house in Waterford. One evening, shortly after that, I got a phone call from the chairman of the Waterford Board of Selectmen. He said, “Vern, I would think you might give some thought to running for selectman. We’ve got an opening and I think you would do a good job.”

I ran and was elected selectman in 1982. Interestingly enough, three years later, I was talking with the same man and he said, “Vern, the town clerk’s retiring. I would think you’d run for town clerk.” I did and was elected. I served for three years. Then in March 1985, about the time my term was up, there was an ad in the paper saying the town of Woodstock was looking for a town manager. I remember thinking, “I’m going to apply for that job.” Our youngest daughter, Katie, was born in October 1986, during the process of applying.

There were 16 candidates in Woodstock and every one of them had a college degree except me. I was hired as town manager of Woodstock in July 1988 and my first day was on the first of August. I needed to get some extra training, so I took a lot of local government classes during the interim through the Maine Municipal Association, which provides training for government employees. They put on workshops year-round and have a lot of training manuals. It is a very useful resource for new employees.

In 1994, I moderated a meeting for the first time in South Paris when their moderator at that time, Vern Inman, was retiring. It’s not a popular job and moderators are suggested by word-of-mouth. If people like you and you do the job well, they’ll hire you.

In the last three years, life has changed drastically for me. Brenda and I have five grandchildren. I’ve also lost both of my parents. I see life quite a lot differently than I did before then. It gives you cause to think differently when you realize there’s no person above you to be there for you anymore. The torch has been passed on to me to be the leader of my family.

I believe the Lord put me there in Woodstock in 1988, and that’s where I’m still working. As of this year, I will have been there for 31 years. As town manager of a small Maine town, I also perform the duties of road commissioner, bookkeeper, and register of voters. I still moderate South Paris every year, and have moderated eight other towns over the course of my career.

The biggest value that I get out of my job is being an advocate. I know how people in Woodstock want their town to be, and I very highly value the fact that people in a town can vote on things like how they want to spend their tax money, what they do for road work, and how they pay their bills.

I don’t live in Woodstock. I live in Norway. I value being a resident of Norway. I can be part of the voting body that helps make those decisions for the town.

I think self-governing values and family values are what this country was founded on. Every government has to have a base of operations, and the way you handle it is how you direct other aspects of life. If we are to continue holding up the values our country was based on, we need to be involved on some level, even if that means getting involved in our own level of government. With freedom comes responsibility.


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