This is the fourth year Frank Twarog will be keeping order at Hinesburg town meeting.
“I almost feel that the role of town moderator in Vermont has become generational,” he said. “So many people do it for decades.”
Twarog hopes the meeting will run as smoothly as the Land Rovers he used to restore and still drives during the warmer months.
One challenge for Twarog on the first Tuesday in March is keeping the conversation productive. “One thing I often hear,” he said, “is frustration over individuals who focus on very small details and don’t consider the bigger picture. There will be three minutes on a multimillion-dollar budget, but an hour on a $2,000 line item. The town moderator has to keep people on task and give them the opportunity to be heard but not allow them to perseverate over an issue that could be beaten to death.”
Twarog believes that more participants lead to better conversations, but recognizes that his job is to ensure the talk doesn’t stray far from the issue at hand.
“One thing that causes me anxiety is that procedures have to be followed properly or you risk having to return for a special meeting,” he said.
Town moderator is not the only municipal hat the 44-year-old Twarog wears. He was recently voted acting town agent and he has spent the last 15 years as a member of the Hinesburg Recreation Committee including at least 12 years as chair.
When he joined the committee, his goals were to get an organized series of trails in the town and to establish public playing fields. Twarog said the town currently has only one small public field, so he is part of a subcommittee that is fundraising for the Bissonette Family Fields, which will include two regulation-size soccer/football fields and one baseball field without having to use any tax dollars.
Twarog is also a trustee for the Peck Trust, the interest from which is spent for the benefit of Hinesburg Community School. Over the last six or seven years, that money has been in the $35,000 range and has been used for previously unfunded projects.
Twarog founded and chaired the trails committee but has stepped back from that because of his other commitments. “That committee work stemmed from a frustration about people having to drive to recreate,” he said. “Now, between our dirt roads and trails systems, not that many people have to travel for recreation, exercise or nature.”
Twarog moved to Hinesburg in 1995 and became a full-time resident after completing Suffolk University Law School in Boston in 2002. While at Suffolk, he worked for Shelter Legal Services; among other things, he helped military veterans at a homeless shelter.
“I was appalled at how they were treated by the public and by scam artists,” he said.
Now a partner at Murdoch, Hughes and Twarog, he was the youngest-ever president of the Vermont Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and was selected for the Top 100 Trial Lawyers list by the American Trial Lawyers Association. He is one of only four Vermont lawyers admitted to the National College for DUI Defense.
Twarog volunteers his time in Hinesburg because “it’s a real community,” he said. “It’s a town filled with wonderful people who are there for each other.”