Jessica Brown Appointed as Burlington City Attorney | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Jessica Brown Appointed as Burlington City Attorney


Published July 10, 2024 at 1:17 p.m.

Jessica Brown shaking hands with Police Chief Jon Murad as Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak looks on - JACK MCGUIRE ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Jack McGuire ©️ Seven Days
  • Jessica Brown shaking hands with Police Chief Jon Murad as Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak looks on

Burlington Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak has appointed Jessica Brown, an assistant professor at Vermont Law & Graduate School, as city attorney.

If the city council confirms Brown at its meeting on Monday, she will fill a position that has been vacant for more than two years. She'd also be the first Black woman to serve in the post.

“Those who know Jessica describe her as a collaborative and creative leader with a deep commitment to equity and justice,” Mulvaney-Stanak said. “As I learned more about Jessica during our appointment process, I was impressed by her leadership experience, her thoughtfulness and her approach to complex problem solving and a commitment to public service.”

Most recently, Brown served as director of the Center for Justice Reform at Vermont Law & Graduate School. She was also a public defender in New Hampshire and Vermont for 24 years, working in both the state and federal criminal legal systems. This past March, she was reported to be a finalist for a lifetime appointment as Vermont's U.S. District Court judge.

“This is historic and notable as we know that representation matters, and the perspectives of women, people of color and folks with other marginalized voices in our community have for too long been unheard of in significant positions such as mayor and city attorney,” said Mulvaney-Stanak, who herself made history in April when she became the first woman and openly gay mayor in Burlington's history.

Brown is one of the first new appointments Mulvaney-Stanak has made since she took office. Most other department heads are holdovers from mayor Miro Weinberger's administration. The planning director and human resources positions are currently vacant, and the city is not planning to hire someone this year to serve as head of the Office of Racial Equity, Inclusion & Belonging.

Mulvaney-Stanak said she hopes Brown’s appointment will bring stability to an overworked department that's had high turnover and currently has three vacancies. Mulvaney-Stanak described how city attorneys are underpaid compared to what they could make at a private firm, making it difficult to recruit and retain staff.

“With a strong leader like attorney Brown at the helm, that will only help us with both recruiting and setting a vision and force for that department,” the mayor said.

Brown said Mulvaney-Stanak’s early work as mayor motivated her to accept this position.

“I'm definitely excited and inspired, not to kiss up too much, by the new mayoral administration,” Brown said. “Seeing the various advisory teams that Mayor Mulvaney-Stanak has put together, seeing other people that she has chosen to take on her roles in her administration has excited me about what I think she can accomplish in Burlington."

If confirmed, Brown would begin work on August 19. Interim City Attorney Joe McNeil would hold the post until then, the city said.

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