WINDSOR, Vt. — When Windsor resident Amanda Smith, 28, learned that the Town of Windsor had not planned a community recognition of PRIDE Month, Smith wanted to change that message. On June 14 Smith met with Town Manager Tom Marsh, who told her that the town does not officially recognize PRIDE but that if she wanted to organize an event that the town would not object, Smith said.
Smith set to work and in less than two weeks she organized a Windsor PRIDE celebration, which takes place on Sunday from 2-5 p.m. at the Windsor Fairgrounds. Event participants include local health providers, advocacy groups, faith organizations and community members, which aim to educate residents about information and resources available to the LGBTQ+ community. The event will also provide family-friendly activities that promote acceptance and diversity, with a librarian from the town library reading children’s stories and an activity painting kindness-rocks.
Smith’s Facebook page for the event, LGBTQ+ & Allies of Windsor VT, already has over 100 members from the area and over 200 people so far have confirmed or expressed interest in attending the event.
Given the community support Smith asked the selectboard on Tuesday to consider being more actively involved by showing support for the PRIDE event.
A discussion of town role
Smith expressed her disappointment to the selectboard about the town manager’s reluctance to promote the PRIDE event on the town website or digital newsletter, saying that this issue is not comparable to showing favoritism to a private company but recognizing a need within the community.
“I believe that inaction sends a [negative] message very loudly,” Smith told the board. “I hope that the board can focus on that message to the town and need in the community going forward.”
Marsh said he told Smith that the town could support the event through its municipal services, like portable bathrooms and police support for parking and traffic, but “to make a statement for or against” should be the decision of the selectboard and not the town manager.
Smith took exception to Marsh’s use of the word “against,” saying that she did not see PRIDE as a for-or-against issue.
“A town government should still support them with every resource a government can,” Smith said.
Smith asked the selectboard to endorse a public message that welcomes the LGBTQ community and give the town manager the authority to convey it.
“There are a lot of small towns that stand up and say the community is welcome there,” Smith said. “There has been such an outpouring of community support for this. I think the community wants this.”
Smith said that visible actions are the first step to building inclusivity whereas, speaking as the wife of a disabled military veteran, policies like Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell that attempt to ignore the differences fail.
“When we don’t acknowledge the differences in our community we miss an opportunity,” Smith said. “I love Windsor but think we need to give an extra push to show people how great we are.”
In a written explanation yesterday, Marsh stated that as town manager he serves at the direction of the selectboard, who is the elected representative of the people.
“The selectboard, as the voice of the people, can choose to make statements on behalf of the community as they see fit,” Marsh said.
Marsh said that his function as town manager is to assist individuals and groups to meet needs and interests.
“Amanda had an interest in supporting a cause and I helped coordinate some of the resources to help it happen,” Marsh said. “That is true for everything, from an event to someone needing help with a water bill.”
While leaving it to the selectboard to decide what positions to support or not, Marsh said that he personally feels that Windsor effectively conveys a welcoming message to all.
“As is so often said, actions speak louder than words,” Marsh said. “Certainly there are individuals who may be less [welcoming], but as a whole I am proud of the way the community represents itself.”
The selectboard did not discuss taking action on a message, though Selectmen James Reed and Michael McNaughton expressed their support and admiration for Smith’s cause and hard work.
“I am incredibly impressed by the quality of this event [as it currently stands] and the speed of which it was put together,” Reed said. “I see no reason why we should not be supportive of this event.”
Smith said yesterday that she did not originally plan the event to be so big, but when support grew so quickly she committed to bringing as many organizational partners and volunteers as possible. The event will include information and resources both for people who identify as LBGTQ+ and for family members and friends who want to know how they can support.
“I’m hopeful that there can be a lot of positive changes from this event,” Smith said.