Rutland Small Business Owner Says Neighbors in Pawlett Helped Him Out When He Was In Need


Tom Lichtman, 59, has lived in Vermont for about 25 years. He lives in Pawlett, but he has had a business in downtown Rutland for the last 15 years. He has two companies. One is a web hosting design company, VTWeb and the other is Sidekick Publishing, which does packaging and trading cards for artists and small specialty work.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think the community of Pawlett is strong?”

Mr. Lichtman: “Yes it is. It’s a small town. It has about 1,100 people, and there’s a strong regard for community there.”

Vermont Gossip: “How does that manifest itself?”

Mr. Lichtman: “Well. In my case, personally, I had a culvert for a stream running through my property which became blocked with a snag. And immediately several of my neighbors came over, one with a truck and we set up a chain hoist and stuff. There was no discussion. I didn’t even have to ask. They just showed up and we cleared the snag. It was quite a dire situation for a while. It was going to flood my house. So I was very grateful for neighbors who just stepped up immediately without even having to be asked or even saying anything, they just immediately pitched in.

Vermont Gossip: “What do you think can be done to deal with the heroin and opioid crisis in Vermont?”

Mr. Lichtman: “In general I think it should be treated as a social problem not a criminal problem. In that there has been a historical legacy of total denial of drug’s existence and severe punishments to try to obliterate it. It’s part of human nature. It’s an offshoot of social issues that has become criminalized, but the reality is that it’s…it’s like tooth decay that sets in after bad hygiene. There have been a lot of underlying financial economic issues that have led to a reduction of people’s livelihoods. There’s been an exodus of manufacturing in Rutland, an exodus of reasonable jobs, which has led to a situation where people are seeking escape, and drugs seem to be part of that escape. Be that as it may how we got here, but now that we are here, it needs to be solved as a social economic problem, not how can we jail these people faster.

Vermont Gossip: “Do you know a lot of people in your neighborhood?”

Mr. Lichtman: “I know a few. I have to say most people I know by face, but I’m not that social a person, so I don’t have strong connections with most people, but there are a few that I know well.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think Vermonters are supportive enough of each other’s success?”

Mr. Lichtman: “I do. I think that. I rarely encounter any sense of rivalry or I wish ill of somebody or I wish they didn’t have the success that they have. So absent that jealousy rivalry I’ve found most people to be supportive or at least accepting of other people’s success or victories and good events that happen for them.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that older generations are supportive enough of younger generations in Vermont?”

Mr. Lichtman: “I think there’s a large case of bafflement and lack of understanding of younger, but that is something that I think has gone on for hundreds of years, where the older people have a different sense of priorities than young people and so a stress or strife between generations is just natural. In this modern internet age there’s a lot more access to information about current culture and there seems to be a lot of anti-aging attempts to stay current and relevant which has led to older generations accepting and trying to join the younger generations which causes them to actually seek further outstream edges like tattooing and piercing and so forth to differentiate themselves from the older people who are embracing their culture.”

Vermont Gossip: “What’s newsworthy in your life right now?”

Mr. Lichtman: “Business is steady and moderately successful. We have some new jobs in which are nice, and as far as personal events, not many. I live alone and being older, being 59, I’m sort of out of the dating age and seeking somebody age. So it’s a very peaceful life of just enjoying myself rather than seeking relationships which has led to a calmness in my life. As far as work, I have created these businesses to fulfill my curiosities and desires to be active in certain ways and they’re succeeding so I’m happy.”

Vermont Gossip: “Is there anything that isn’t being covered by the local media that you would like to see be covered?”

Mr. Lichtman: “In general I enjoy success stories. I like victory stories, and many times the local media seems to focus on fear and danger because it is what is most riveting for most people. If there is a rustle in the bush you immediately look at it because it might be a tiger about to jump at you. Whereas I find that is of less interest to me I’m much happier or enjoy encountering news items of people who have met challenges or difficulties and have found solutions for them personally. It doesn’t have to be ra ra feel good stories, but more a case of where…like a local business that faced a loss of a contract and suddenly they’re scrambling to find new business and this is how they succeed in finding that new business. I like challenge and response stories and some that don’t succeed. So if I had my magic wand and asked for more news coverage of certain kinds of stories that would be it. How did the local carpentry shop handle the loss of a key employee? What did they do about it?”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe there are tensions between old Vermonters and new Vermonters?”

Mr. Lichtman: “Yes. My new Vermonters you mean flatlanders I assume, or newcomers to Vermont versus the woodchucks and the older more traditional Vermonters that are coming from an agricultural background. There is a tension that exists, which is parallel with our country as a whole, between conservatives and progressives. It was manifested back in same sex marriage, where you had the dueling lawn signs and I saw them with neighbors who’d have alternating signs ‘Take Vermont Back’ ‘Take Vermont Forward’ and that conflict, I think it is a lot more sedate and humane in the state than elsewhere in that we seem to lack rioting and fisticuffs and fighting and go for the throat. In general, politics to me over the last twenty years has become more parallel with sports: your team sucks, my team is wonderful. And to see all the news in the sense of who won the debate, who lost the debate. Political debates should not be a winning and losing, it’s more who stated an interesting viewpoint or who presented an interesting solution. Not who won? Who lost? A manifestation of the sportification (sic) in politics is now manifested in things like the tensions of old Vermonters/new Vermonters: Who’s won? Who’s losing? It becomes like a football game, and I think that it is a very wrong direction for news coverage to treat sports metaphors, or to utilize sports metaphors for politics and social issues.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that elementary school students should be taught to grow food in a hands on environment?”

Mr. Lichtman: “Absolutely. I was raised in an era where every family in the background had a small garden, a family garden. Also, Dad always had a fix-it bench in the basement or the garage with an array of tools and spare parts and old lamp cords and things and if something broke, or needed some adjusting it would go to Dad’s fix-it bench and I learned a tremendous amount about how to use tools and about the proper strength of materials and what can bare the weight and what can’t. how to drill properly so you don’t break the bit or injure something. Nowadays I visit friend’s houses and there is no fix-it bench. A light switch might need an adjustment, the plate to come off and I’ll ask them ‘do you have a screw driver?’ and they’ll rummage around the kitchen to find a leftover IKEA assembly screw driver and that’s about it. So we have embraced the digital age and we lost a certain about of tactile, hands-on, practical knowledge, whether it be gardening, I’m expanding from your point of gardening to generally using hand tools. and using electric drills and being able to fix a piece of lawn furniture because it needs a new hole drilled, a new bolt put in where a welded joint has failed. You just drill a hole and put a bolt through it and now you’re good.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that high school students who have an interest in it should learn how to make furniture from sustainably harvested Vermont wood?”

Mr. Lichtman: “There’s a very specific slant to your question, with the ‘sustainable’. I am not as strong on sustainable issues, I am strong on the hands-on, as per my earlier answer. So learning hands-on activities in high school: all for the better. Whether it be utilizing plexi-glass or Home Depot lumber or sustainable lumber. I think you’ve added two issues together. One is sustainable resources and hands-on learning in high school, so I’ll separate those two issues. Hand-on learning: Absolutely, A+, we need more of it. The sustainable issue, as a society as a whole it is a goal and something that is a good thing to work towards, but I wouldn’t link it with any specific issue that way.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you believe that Hollywood corrupts the minds of our youth with all the sex and violence and parties that is found in TV and the movie culture?”

Mr. Lichtman: “No, I don’t think it’s a corrupting influence. I think it’s a mirror. In order to cut through the noise, entertainment always needs to strive towards the edge of what’s acceptable. Stories about happy puppies that cross the street successfully don’t sell. There has to be a little bit of edge, whether it be titillation or societal edge of social issues. So, as a result Hollywood will create content that either reflects current issues or pushes the edge on them, but they are not leading the parade, they’re following the parade of change that’s occurring in society.”

Vermont Gossip: “Do you think that, given that, that there is too much emphasis on violence and sex and parties in society or do you think it’s natural?”

Mr. Lichtman: “I’m trying to parse your question a bit. You’re saying a pervasive element of parties and sex and so forth, and I’m not sure from what viewpoint you’re asking. Your earlier question had motion pictures and Hollywood, but this second one was more generic. Are you talking about the average person and their attitudes towards sex and drugs? I need to know more about your question in order to answer it.”

Vermont Gossip: “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”

Mr. Lictman: “I don’t know because I’m not that up on the street knowledge of what the average person feels. I can speak about myself but I can’t speak about society in general. I can talk about Hollywood because I watch a lot of movies and I can see what they’re producing. But the average person I don’t know.”

Vermont Gossip: “How do you feel about letting refugees come into this state?”

Mr. Lictman: “I’m OK with it. They’re suffering. This country was founded on “Give us your poor, your yearning to be free.” We have established ourselves, or at least claim to be the peak of human society and two elements of that are, or two offshoots of that should be to lead by example and i.e accepting refugees. People who are in need, again it fits with the Vermont credo, which is I was suffering with my stuck culvert and I was unable to handle it by myself, so my neighbors immediately stepped in and lent assistance. So this is another form of assistance, where people have suffered tremendously. I do believe that the process of reviewing and interviewing and vetting candidates for refugees is quite extensive, so I’m accepting that candidates who are declared OK to come here are OK. As many news stories these days are saying, more people are killed by toddlers with found guns than terrorists or terrorists who have infiltrated through the refugee process. There’s a current backlash against refugees as a whole because there’s a fear that there will be a hidden terrorist in there who is suddenly going to firebomb downtown Rutland or New York City and it’s an unfound fear. It’s not impossible, but it’s also possible that a meteor is going to strike and obliterate all of humanity and life in the next five years. What do you stay up at night, there are more drunk drivers killing people every day, than have even been killed by terrorists in this country. I mean it’s just phenomenal the false fears that we are drummed up to pay attention to and in the big scale of things, it’s probably more dangerous crossing the street here in the long run. There are more pedestrians killed in crosswalks in New York City than any terrorist activities, let’s say over a period of time, because there was that one big 9/11 that hit, so if you then say over a ten year period more people are killed. Since 9/11 more people have died as a pedestrian crossing the street than from terrorist activities.”

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