Patricia Moulton Powden (submitted photo)
Patricia Moulton Powden (submitted photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- The Board of Trustees of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation were rightfully proud when they convinced Patricia Moulton Powden in 2013 to take over as executive director after Jeff Lewis announced he was stepping down.

Powden's bona fides were impeccable and included stints as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor and deputy secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. She was also the chairwoman of the Vermont Environmental Board and the Vermont Natural Resources Board.

When she came to Brattleboro, she brought with her decades of experience in economic development and workforce training, which the BDCC's board hoped would be a great benefit to the region.

However, on Thursday, her short stint leading the BDCC came to end when Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Powden had accepted his offer to take over as secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

"It's hard to say no to the governor," said Powden, a resident of Londonderry. "But it was a difficult decision, with a lot of great things happening with both the BDCC and the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies."

Powden replaces current agency secretary Lawrence Miller, who will become senior advisor to the governor and Chief of Health Care Reform. Miller will transition to his new role at the beginning of June, when Moulton will become Commerce Secretary.

Powden said taking the new job doesn't mean she'll forget about Brattleboro and southern Vermont.

"I can be a lot of help," she said. "I will continue to work very closely with the team here."

In her new position, Powden will be in charge of overseeing the disbursal of $10 million over five years for economic development in Windham County. The money comes by way of Entergy, which recently announced it was ceasing operations at its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. In a far-reaching agreement with the state, Entergy agreed to make the payments specifically to help the region recover from losing the power plant and its economic base.

Powden said her time at the BDCC and her work with SeVEDS will help her understand how to make sure the money has the most significant impact possible.

In a written statement from the boards of the BDCC and SeVEDS, the members stated they greeted the news with mixed feelings.

"We will miss having Pat here on a daily basis, but we look forward to continuing to work closely with her and her agency on developing the regional and state economy," stated the boards.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed," said Dan Normandeau, chairman of the BDCC's board. "But we are definitely looking forward to a continued relationship with Pat. She has assured us she will work with us as closely as possible."

During her time with the BDCC, Powden was crucial in helping to guide BDCC's continuing long-term Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding work following Tropical Storm Irene as well as the development of the Windham Higher Education Cooperative and the Cooperative's Internship Program.

"I think she learned a lot by being here," said Lewis, who was with the BDCC for more than seven years. "It's a bit of a win for us because she now knows a lot more about what we do down here and she will have custody of that $10 million."

Both Lewis and Powden said the BDCC is in good hands while the board looks for a new executive director.

"She is leaving with a lot of confidence in the people here and in the programs that are underway," said Lewis.

"There is a good team in place here and I have every confidence they can carry the ball," said Powden.

"We are a solid organization," said Normandeau, adding the board is not in a rush to find Powden's replacement.

"We are going to take our time to find the right person to lead this organization. We will work diligently and efficiently to identify the right person," he said. "One of the reasons we are not in a rush is we have a great group of people at the BDCC and SeVEDS."

Lewis said this is also a good time for the BDCC and SeVEDS to streamline how they work together.

"While there is clearly a lot of sadness in her going, there is an opportunity for BDCC and SeVEDS to address their ongoing shared mission and how their governance will match their missions," said Lewis.

"Our two organizations have undergone significant growth in mission, projects and staff in the past few years," stated the two boards in their press release. "Both boards look forward to continue collaboration as we and our very capable staff keep projects and priorities moving forward."

In his new capacity, Miller will be tasked with overseeing the state's health care reform efforts and transition to Green Mountain Care and will report directly to the governor. Miller will lead the team of administration officials working across agencies and departments, and with the private health care, insurance and business sectors, to improve health care costs, delivery, and access in Vermont, including Robin Lunge, who serves as policy lead as the Director of Health Care Reform, Secretary Doug Racine and Commissioner Mark Larson at the Agency of Human Services, Secretary Jeb Spaulding and Commissioners Richard Boes and Kate Duffy at the Agency of Administration, and the independent Green Mountain Care Board chaired by Al Gobeille, among others.

"The most important thing we can do for Vermont's economy and our ability to grow jobs is to get health care and economic development right," stated Shumlin in a press release. "Lawrence and Pat will help us do that. I could not ask for two more able, well-respected people to help us build a stronger, more prosperous economic future for Vermont."

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.