SWANTON — When Mark Rocheleau, vice president of the Swanton Chamber of Commerce, asked for everyone’s attention during a dinner gathering at One Federal in St. Albans Friday evening everyone — but Mike Bessette — knew what was coming.
Rocheleau and the chamber’s new president, Suzanne Washburn, welcomed everyone, thanking them for coming out to commemorate their pick for citizen of the year.
“We look for someone who has made an outstanding contribution to our community, someone who goes above and beyond what a normal citizen would do,” said Rocheleau.
“This year we’ve chosen Mike Bessette as our citizen of the year,” he announced.
It took a few seconds and a slight shake of his head for Bessette to overcome the initial shock and realize they meant him.
“I thought I this was a work function for my wife (Casey). Now I know why she was so insistent that we couldn’t be late,” he said.
“I noticed that my family was here too, and thought my wife had asked them to come support her; now it all makes sense,” he said.
Bessette had no clue that his wife had nominated him, nor did he know his whole family was in on the surprise.
His wife shared that not only has he been a great husband and father to their two children, Caylin, 15, and Carson, 10, he has been actively involved in their community, church and school programs and functions.
“We are so proud of him,” said his mother, Marie Bessette.
“I ran a daycare and Mike was always my activity director, he always did so much for the children,” she added.
Bessette, a Cub Scout committee chair, and a former Wolf Den leader, enjoys assisting with the weeklong summer camps.
He also coaches little league softball and baseball, the Vermont Thunder ASA softball travel team and assists with the fifth/sixth grade basketball team.
Bessette, who was an altar boy at the Holy Angel’s Church from fourth to eleventh grade, has remained very active with his church. He enjoys working in the kitchen for the annual turkey dinner, chairing the Swanton Town Meeting take-out supper, and usually sells more than 450 tickets for the event.
Rocheleau said that once the chamber receives the nomination letters a committee looks over each and makes the decision based on what each individual has offered to the community.
“We chose Mike because of his commitment to youth sports, the church, and the cub scouts,” he said.
“The amount of time he has devoted to our youth is good to touch on, given the children are our future,” Rocheleau added.