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Against The Grain Masthead.png
Bob Bates: A Good Citizen 

January 1, 2021

My friend and neighbor Bob Bates recently passed away just shy of his 72nd birthday.

Bob made many contributions to life in Essex since he moved here in 1990, through his church, Essex High School, letters to the editor, appearances before the Selectboard and faithful participation at Town Meeting.

Here are just two remembrances of his life.

For State Representative Tanya Vyhovsky, Bob made a significant and positive difference.

She encountered Bob as one  of her guidance counselors in high school. “Bob … cared deeply for every EHS student,” she wrote, “and was always willing to sit thoughtfully with their struggles and validate and find ways to harness their energy.”

She remembers him “igniting my passion for supporting  children and building stronger systems in our community. … At the time I didn’t know it,  but Bob was, without a doubt, one of the people who turned me towards my work as a social worker, policy maker and advocate.”

As for myself, I think of Bob Bates in the context of American philosopher Mortimer Adler’s assertion that “… citizenship is the primary political office under a constitutional government.” In my mind, Bob lived up to Adler’s ideal in more ways than one.

He was a regular presence at Town Meeting, where he offered not just his opinions but also kept folks on track with his knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order.

As for myself, I think of Bob Bates in the context of American philosopher Mortimer Adler’s assertion that “… citizenship is the primary political office under a constitutional government.” In my mind, Bob lived up to Adler’s ideal in more ways than one.

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He was a regular presence at Town Meeting, where he offered not just his opinions but also kept folks on track with his knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order.

 

As much as he loved Town Meeting, Bob felt it was unjust that the Town budget could only be approved by the very few who could attend. He became an early member of Budget-to-Ballot, a group of citizens — Town and Village — who advocated moving the budget to a public ballot so that all voters could have their say.

Bob also championed neighborhood assemblies, which would enable residents to have a  voice on issues important to their immediate, localized area. It is a form of bottom-up, not top-down, governance that could also be a model for establishing representative voting districts for Selectboard members. 

Some people build their legacies with grand gestures, dramatic acts and bombast. Bob Bates was not like that. He built his with quiet, everyday encounters.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “I hate to see ’em coming but I am glad to see ’em go.” Just the opposite with Bob: I was always happy to see him coming, and now, I’m sorry to see him go. Rest in peace, neighbor.

www.corbinandpalmer.com/obituary/Robert-Bates

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Bruce S. Post, a former Selectboard member, often writes and lectures on Vermont environmental history.