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Almost 40 years in a selectman’s seat

Colrain’s Scranton heading out door

Recorder/Diane Broncaccio

Colrain Selectman Duane Scranton is stepping down after serving nearly 40 years in office.

Recorder/Diane Broncaccio Colrain Selectman Duane Scranton is stepping down after serving nearly 40 years in office.

COLRAIN — The first time Duane Scranton set foot in a Board of Selectmen’s meeting was to see if something could be done about a group of unpaved, muddy roads near his home.

The owner of a powerful Ford tractor, Scranton said he pulled about 29 vehicles — including school buses — out of the muck during the first three years he lived in Colrain.

Scranton said he and the neighbors went to ask the selectmen what could be done about their muddy roads and one selectman, Charles “Ray” Dumas, told Scranton he was impressed that Scranton wanted all the roads fixed — not just the road in front of his house.

Dumas remembered Scranton’s community-mindness a year later, after Selectman Clinton E. Gray died shortly after being elected to the board. Dumas kept encouraging Scranton to run for office in a special election.

“To be honest about it, I don’t think I was ever interested in it,” says Scranton, 13 terms and nearly 40 years later. “It wasn’t in my thoughts to run until he kept calling and pushing.”

But Scranton, 78, has decided to end his years of service as a selectman as soon as another candidate is elected in the April 30 annual town election.

Scranton said he and his family moved to Colrain in 1963, setting up one of the town’s many dairy farms.

Scranton grew up in Guilford, Vt., and, on a clear day, can see that part of Vermont from his Colrain farm.

“At the highest point, we were up to 110 milking cows,” said Scranton. “My son, Mark, runs it now. He has heffers. I want to keep the land open ...”

Scranton points out that Colrain has the largest number of active dairy farms in the state — although there aren’t as many as there were when Scranton first arrived.

When he first took office, Colrain was very different, Kendall Mill was busy, with an upper mill and a lower mill that cleaned cotton and produced finished cotton products. There were more dairy farms, and the town center was a busier place. The Town Office was on Jacksonville Road, Glen Brown ran a country store in what is now called the “Blue Block,” and Call’s Garage was in business.

Scranton says he worries that Colrain’s tax base isn’t going to grow enough in the future because the development rights of so much of its forests and farm land has been placed in the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program. He said the town’s “new growth” revenue is only expected to increase by $10,000 in the coming fiscal year.

Scranton said the duties of being a selectman have changed over the past 40 years. “It’s become more complicated, because of all the regulations,” he said.

“I’ve always had a policy: we’re in there to help people. A lot of times, we can’t give people what they want us to give them. But you listen to people, and see what you can do to help. I’ve had a lot of cases where you could sympathize with people, but there was nothing you could do.”

“There are three selectmen in charge of a $3.5 million business. You kind of need to meet every week to deal with it. We’d stay (at meetings) until the job was done. I’ve seen times when you’d go in at 7 (p.m.) and stay until 11:30.

“Last summer, we shifted to (meeting) every other week, and seem to be able to do that with (Town Coordinator) Kevin Fox.”

When Scranton first joined the board, selectmen wore “three hats,” he said; they were also the Conservation Commisstion and Board of Health, which is why the meetings might go on for so long. “We pretty much covered it all on a Monday night,” he said.

Although he’s leaving his elected office, Scranton still works as a truck driver for JS Rae Welding of Shelburne.

When asked if he has any advice for the new selectman, Scranton said: “Learn the job, and make sure that you put your one-third input into it. It’s a learning job,” he continued. “You will learn something new every day, if you allow yourself to be involved.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:

dbronc@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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