Pat Nowak

A Fond Farewell: Remembering City Councilor Pat Nowak’s Legacy of Service 

Home » City » A Fond Farewell: Remembering City Councilor Pat Nowak’s Legacy of Service 

Thursday April 05, 2018

South Burlington lost longtime resident and city advocate Pat Nowak, who died March 31 at the McClure Miller VNA Respite House. She behind a substantial legacy of service to a community she cared deeply about. 

Three decades of volunteer service to the city, in numerous roles on commissions and boards, paved the way to Nowak’s 2013 election for her first of three terms on the South Burlington City Council. In addition, during her tenure, she served as city council chair for 18 months. She is remembered for her commitment, dedication, and leadership by fellow councilors and city leaders. 

Helen Riehle, current council chair, said, “Pat always brought another perspective that enriched the debate and my understanding of an issue.” Noting Nowak’s “incredible energy and passion,” she recalled, “Pat could be as passionate and determined to advance her position as anyone, but, at the end of the day, she still had a sense of humor and the ability to move on to the next topic.” Describing her former co-councilor as generous and caring, Riehle added, “I will miss her very much.”

Councilor Meaghan Emery referred to Nowak’s stamina and commitment as a “force of nature.” She said, “Pat cared deeply about this city, and consistently sought to set common sense policy, which kept our city affordable and economically strong. She was sharp as a whip and an important voice at the table. I will miss her personally as well as civically, especially her perspective on city business,” she said, adding “I will also miss her gregariousness, which was contagious.”

Fellow councilor Tim Barritt says Nowak was “a fiercely passionate and dedicated city leader who cared deeply about her community.” He continued, “She was gracious when it wasn’t required and tough as nails when it was. There was no waffling in her commitment to her values. She had broad knowledge of finance and regulatory detail and people sought her out for it. I will miss Pat on the council.”

“Pat was a friend, a mentor, and a source of strength,” said Councilor Tom Chittenden. “She stepped into the political arena because she cared deeply about South Burlington. Through her tireless commitment to selfless public service, she helped navigate this city through difficult conversations. She led by example and inspired others to be the best versions of themselves.” Reflecting on the day the two were sworn in after the 2015 Town Meeting Day, Chittenden fondly remembers Nowak saying to him, “Congratulations on the election, kid - now let’s get to work.”

City Manager Kevin Dorn describes Nowak as “a true servant of the public.” He added, “Pat was totally devoted to the residents and community. Her passion for South Burlington came through in everything she did.” Dorn states that Nowak’s legacy is having “provided a shining example of the importance of public service and giving back to the community in a meaningful and dignified way.”

Police Chief Trevor Whipple commends Nowak as “a devoted public servant who had her finger on the pulse of the community.”  He said, “Even during difficult budget discussions Pat worked to assure the health and safety of city employees.  I will miss her presence at council meetings and in the community.”

Noting a common acknowledgment expressed by many in the city, Dorn says, “Pat led the council’s effort to recognize the contributions of city employees. Every year she would organize a lunch at each of the city office locations for the staff. Pat organized them all, even as she became ill. These lunches, and the recognition they provided, was very important to our team. It meant something to them that our city council would show this appreciation for their hard work. Pat made that happen.” 

“Pat always used to say to me, ‘You’re my favorite fire chief,’ and it would always make me smile,” recalls Fire Chief Doug Brent. He was touched deeply by her efforts to honor the service of the department, saying “When Pat got the notion in her mind that we should have a fire department recognition dinner she was like a woman possessed. She was off to the races and she did not quit until such time as we were all lined up in our dress blues. She was a champion for anything South Burlington. Pat was a wonderful person, a wonderful friend and she will be truly missed by everyone.”

Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard echoes the theme of Nowak’s enthusiasm for the city. “I had the pleasure of knowing Pat for many years, long before her service on the city council. Her trips into city hall were filled with positive energy, kind words, and a smile on her face - always appreciating and recognizing the collective efforts of each department and the services they provide on behalf of our community. Pat will certainly be missed by all of us here. She always made herself available, whenever called upon, and we will surely miss her involvement, support, and leadership.”

Peter Taylor, who served with Nowak as a Justice of the Peace for over 25 years, said, “Pat Nowak’s contribution to the city of South Burlington and its residents was significant. In addition to her service on the city council, she was a member of the Boards of Civil Authority and Abatement. Pat was committed to the mission of these boards and I could depend on her thoughtful participation at our many meetings. She was also passionate about the election process and could be counted on to serve as an election official on Election Days and ensure an open and fair election process at her polling location. Pat’s participation on these boards and her passion for the city will truly be missed.”

City Clerk Donna Kinville, as clerk of the Board of Civil Authority, worked directly with Nowak for many years, and says, “She truly loved South Burlington and, whether you agreed with her or not, you had to admire that everything she did was out of her love for the city.” Observing Nowak’s reputation for dependability, integrity, and “Pat’s philosophy that if you sign up for something, you commit to it,” Kinville adds, “Pat was a friend and as a friend she always had your back. When I needed support as clerk, she was one of the people who stood beside me, in front of me, and behind me. She taught me to stand behind my decisions - personally and professionally - and do it to the best of my ability and belief.”

“For her leadership in her profession and her dedication to a woman’s job fair, which she founded, I recommended Pat for the Rotary Club’s Fred Tuttle Award for community service,” recalled John Simson. Knowing Nowak as “a dedicated worker and respected leader in every aspect of her life,” Simson offered, “I have personally appreciated her interest and support for affordable housing initiatives and for the development of a new library. For our city, which she loved, she has been progressive in all matters of community improvement while keeping an eagle eye on costs and never forgetting that city revenues come from citizens’ wallets and purses.”

Former city councilor Chris Shaw depicts Nowak as “a giving, gregarious, and committed citizen of our community,” adding, “She was joyous to work with, generous to all, and shined best in the presence of her business clients and her loving, energetic family.”

As Kinville says, “Pat’s legacy is her contribution – her passion for the citizens. Whether she was officiating a wedding ceremony, working the elections, deciding whether to grant an abatement of taxes, or serving on city council, Pat had the ability to see the person and want to try to help them to the best of her ability.”

Beyond her many contributions to the city, Nowak had a long and impressive career as a financial advisor, working alongside her husband, Bob, in their business Nowak & Nowak Financial Services. But it was in her role as wife, mother and grandmother that she found her deepest fulfillment and joy.