FLETCHER — Walk into the town clerk’s office in the heart of Fletcher on any given day, and you may hear the slow, quiet steps of a man who knows the lands and records of the town like the back of his 92-year-old hand.
Over 55 years of public service, he has served as moderator for town meetings and debates, first lister for properties, zoning administrator, town health officer, a member of the planning commission, town agent, grand juror, 911 coordinator, was president of the Northern Vermont RC&D and even filled the coveted post of official fence viewer.
“I’m a flatlander, I was from New Jersey,” said H. Carlton Ferguson as he sat, cradling the handmade cane his son whittled for him. “I moved up here in 1938. I emigrated up here to Fairfax.”
His father had found dangerous work on high-rise buildings among other jobs in New Jersey, including driving boats up the coast and into Lake Champlain. It was on one of those trips that he was told the owner of a big property in Fairfax had recently passed away.
After a doctor helped his family sell their home in the Garden State, the Fergusons were on their way up to Vermont, where their family bought the old 112-acre farm and raised their family.
When Ferguson grew up, he had his own 250-acre farm where he raised Jersey and Holstein cattle for his creamery that he jokingly called Stony Acres.
“I’m a jack of all trades,” Ferguson said. “Word gets around, so you have plenty to do.”
Later, Ferguson’s son took over the family farm and Ferguson set about building a home to retire in alongside his wife, his high school sweetheart who he married early in his 20s.
He’s met and worked with Dean Davis, Govs. Sammon and Snelling, and even served on a preliminary committee that would later evolve to become today’s ACT 250 Committee.
“I guess it helped some ... It’s a lot of paperwork,” he said.
Throughout decades of public service, his passion never faded, and he became known town- and region-wide as the man who knew Robert’s rules back to front, and knew everyone who owned land back to its original deed records and exactly what page they were kept on in the safe.
“I have spent a lifetime up front, moderating, chairing, presiding, and facilitating meetings,” Ferguson said in a letter to Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, on the need for good acoustics in town meeting halls. “One-thousand irate citizens showed up at Lamoille Union and would not let the Commissioner have an antlerless deer hearing. A month later, they called me to moderate the antlerless deer hearing the State had to have. The theatre was packed...the acoustics were excellent.”
“I loved the energy (of town and board meetings,)” he recalled in an interview on Thursday.
But he’s also known for his passion for people: Ferguson was almost constantly a fixture at local church suppers and community gatherings, and held “Fergie Pond” nights at his house when he invited all who wanted to come to a community potluck that often — if the weather was nice — involved swimming.
Any day of the week, Ferguson was known for taking a break and going to “measure” at Erica’s American Diner when there wasn’t anything to measure in the town, his coy way of sneaking off to one of his favorite restaurants to enjoy some home-cooked food.
Ferguson’s final term will end on March 1, and though he says he’s content to spend his days writing and cozying up at home, leaving his beloved life of service will be bitter sweet. Town officials say the office won’t be the same without him.
“He knew he was ready, but he wasn’t ready to give it up,” said Assistant Town Clerk Aimee Tinker. “If he saw there was a need, he would keep going.”
Tinker said Ferguson has heartily agreed to stay on through a transitional period if the new listers — or anyone else, for that matter — should need him.
But his family at Erica’s American Diner — even if there is never anything new to measure — will always have his order memorized, should something “measurable” need his keen eye and seasoned hand.
“Fish and chips with mashed potatoes, sometimes switches it up between beef and turkey gravy,” recalled Rachel Ryea, a longtime server at Erica’s. “He often comes in with his son, who has dessert while his father has lunch.”