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State Archivist Gregory Sanford to Retire


Gregory Sanford, the affable Vermont state archivist with the long gray beard, is retiring.

Sanford's boss, Secretary of State Jim Condos, spilled the beans on Saturday at a meeting of the Democratic State Committee and Sanford confirmed Monday that his last day on the job will be August 1.

First hired as the "editor of state papers" in 1982, Sanford became Vermont's first official state archivist and spent a 30-year career modernizing the way the state preserves and manages its official records. He oversaw the opening last year of a new state archives building in Middlesex; under legislation passed this year, the building will be named in Sanford's honor.

A frequent witness at legislative hearings, Sanford earned a reputation as a strong voice for improving public accesss to government records and was recognized for the work in 2011 with a Vermont Press Association First Amendment Award.

Sanford, 65, says he is retiring "largely for personal reasons." Sanford's partner, Ondis Eardensohn, is battling stage-four breast cancer. She was the subject of a 2011 Seven Days story about how a nationwide drug shortage is affecting critically ill patients in Vermont and elsewhere.

Sanford's successor as state archivist will be his longtime deputy, Tanya Marshall, who is presently in charge of the record analyst unit.

"It's hard. I love what I do. I've still got a gazillion ideas," Sanford says of retirement. "But every once in a while you have to have enough self awareness to say, 'Maybe it's time to hand it off to people who can take it up to another level.'"

When he first took the job, Sanford says state records were stored in the flood-prone basement of the Pavilion Building on State Street in Montpelier. Vermont was the last state to establish an archives program, and for years had a staff of one (him).

Today, the Vermont State Archives & Records Administration, a division of the Secretary of State's Office, has 15 employees and occupies a brand new climate-controlled building behind the Middlesex state police barracks. Along the way, he hit some archival milestones — among them, returning 18th century documents concerning Ethan Allen's family from New York to the Vermont state archives.

"We've got a long, long way to go," says the famously modest Sanford, "but we are certainly better off than we were in those [early] days."

Photo by Allen Gilbert