MONADNOCK PROFILES: Town administrator has Bennington in her blood

  • Kristie LaPlante took over town administrator of the town of Bennington after 14 years working in the administrative office, taking over for her mom, Dee French. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Kristie LaPlante took over town administrator of the town of Bennington after 14 years working in the administrative office, taking over for her mom, Dee French. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Kristie LaPlante. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/7/2019 1:18:22 PM

When Kristie LaPlante first started working for the town of Bennington, she didn’t even have a title.

It was a part-time thing, filling in when someone was out or when they needed help with special projects. She was working on her masters at Southern New Hampshire University in organizational leadership and by the time she graduated, LaPlante was ready to give her notice.

“I needed a full-time job,” she said.

But as luck would have it, there was one of those opening up – in Bennington. Someone in the town office had given their notice and the selectmen at the time asked if she’d be interested. She would serve as the town’s tax collector/office assistant, and it seemed to fit perfectly in what she wanted to do with her career.

LaPlante grew up with her mom, Dee French, working for the town for many years, and saw the impact she had on the place she grew up and the people that lived there. It was always her idea to work in the nonprofit world and municipal government is just that.

“Everyone you deal with is a stakeholder in my employment and a stakeholder in the success of the town,” LaPlante said. “I didn’t want to work for the dollar, I wanted to work for people.”

She never thought of it necessarily as a long-term thing, but at the very least a good segway.

“I figured it would be a year or two,” LaPlante.

But then it turned into five and then 10, with more responsibilities and different titles and now, almost a decade and a half later and she’s running the show.

“I never thought 14 years later I’d be the town administrator,” LaPlante said. “I never even envisioned working for the town, let alone for this long.”

Before taking over in November, LaPlante’s latest job was deputy administrator where she worked closely with her mom, who spent many years as the town administrator. In every role she learned a lot that she credits with preparing her for the job.

“I’ve done everything from helping with welfare to helping out at the dump,” she said. “Every day is something new.”

She’s written multi-million dollar grants, given presentations at the state level and if she didn’t know how something worked, she did her best to learn – all in an effort to best serve the residents of Bennington.

“I have the ability to educate people and if I can send one person out of town hall with a different view of town government, that's a good day,” LaPlante said. “I not only work here, but I live here and it’s important to take the opportunity to listen and give people the answers they’re looking for. I want to be accessible. I want to help people.”

When French decided it was time to take a step back, the two had a conversation. But it was the selectmen who offered LaPlante the opportunity to fill the role. As the longest tenured employee in the office and someone who knew about everything in town, considering she’s lived there her entire life except four years of college and a handful of years in Keene, she seemed like the logical replacement. There’s no substitute for that kind of institutional knowledge.

“It’s kind of a job I’ve been doing indirectly for years,” she said. “I never thought I was doing town administrator work, but when you take a step back and look, I really was.”

But even LaPlante had her reservations. There were things that she didn’t know, but in the end she felt it was a new challenge that she was ready to take.

“It’s the best on the job training you can have,” she said. “Because really I’ve learned by just being here.”

There are a few things that make the job special. There are the interactions with residents and providing an answer to their questions. There’s the aspect of serving the town she’s lived in most of her life. And there’s the fact she works a mile from home and can see her two daughters every day at school.

Sometimes she goes over to Pierce Elementary for lunch and a flexible schedule allows for LaPlante to attend assemblies, see art projects and be a part of the school community as both a parent and town official.

“The kids love it and I love it,” she said.

She remembers when it was just four classrooms and how they’d use the town hall for gym class. Some of her teachers are still around and her kids get a kick out of hearing about their mom when she was their age.

While her job is demanding and requires a lot of her attention, LaPlante is big on spending time with her daughters and getting outside. She never realized growing up the extensive trails network in her hometown, but not she makes it a point to explore as often as she can.

This winter, with Lindsay and Chelsea in the ski program at Crotched Mountain through the elementary school, she decided to give it a try. People are amazed that she lived so close to Crotched and didn’t learn to ski, but figured if her daughters were doing so could she. After only one trip down the bunny slope, she took to the big trails and was happy to report she only fell twice the entire season.

“They were always like ‘mom, why don’t you ski with us?’” she said. “And to have your kids teach you something is so cool.”

During high school she joined the explorers program with the Bennington Fire Department and spent 14 years with the department, including a time as assistant chief.

Life has been a little busy since her kids were born so she stepped away, but she hasn’t closed to door on getting involved again at some point down the road.

“I don’t want to commit to something I can't give 100 percent,” she said. “And right now I can’t give back the way I used to before I had kids.”

It’s safe to say that LaPlante has Bennington in her blood – she even chose her college (Castleton in Vermont) because it reminded her of her hometown. 

Now she gets to help lead the town into the future – a spot she never thought she’d be in, but at the same time one she can’t envision being any other way.


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