by Nat Frothingham
Here’s a note about Richard Shaw who had an early career for 28 years in various posts with the State of Vermont that ended when he was a Parole & Probation officer with the Department of Corrections. But here, in this note, let’s remember Richard Shaw for his work in both in Montpelier, Barre and across Washington County in law enforcement.
Shaw was for seven years a reserve police officer in Montpelier. He was for 42 years a reserve police officer in Barre City. He was for 17 years a Washington County deputy sheriff. And for the past 20 going on 21 years Shaw has been a community service officer in Montpelier, keeping an eye on the city’s streets, giving directions, watching the parking meters and writing out parking tickets.
I don’t suppose there’s any way to make a local hero out of a city employee who’s putting those bright yellow parking tickets on the windshields of parking meter offenders.
Like other offenders, I’ve lingered too long with a friend at a meal or over a cup of coffee or at a meeting or found myself in a long line somewhere, or tried to do that one extra errand only to hurry back to my car and see in the middle distance someone not unlike Shaw slapping a ticket on my car for an overtime parking meter violation. In such instances it’s hard to summon the heavenly graces when you are fighting back a range of emotions that have to do with self-blame and emotional and financial hurt. Getting a ticket isn’t going to kill you. But it can definitely make you mad — at yourself, the situation and at a city that appears (always) to be finding new and more cunning ways of taking money out of your pocket.
Having owned up to those petty reactions, let me say this.: While I hate getting a parking ticket, I can think of few other people who can deliver this sort of bad news with a friendlier attitude than Shaw. He tells people who are finding a ticket under their windshield that he’s just doing his job — a truth that’s so obvious and imparted in such a friendly manner – that he’s hard to get mad at.
Shaw, whose last day as a parking attendant for the City of Montpelier will be Thursday, June 30 maintains a totally positive attitude towards his work for the city and his interactions with the public.
“I like everything about it,” said Shaw about his community service officer job.
“What about people who get a ticket?” I asked him. “What about the excuses?”
“Excuses!” he said. “It’s hysterical. There’s 100 of them.”
Then Shaw went down a partial list. “I can’t see the meter. I didn’t see the meter. The meter was jammed.” And these were just openers. “But I laugh about it.” Shaw said.
Shaw did tell me a not-so-funny story about a man who got a parking ticket and was totally furious. So furious, in fact, that he took the yellow ticket and tore it up into tiny pieces and threw the pieces at Shaw’s face.
But there were consequences. It turns out that at the time of the incident, Shaw was not just a parking attendant but a police officer as well. In Shaw’s words, “I stepped up to the man and stepped on his shoes so he couldn’t move. Then Shaw addressed the man who had thrown the parking ticket bits in his face. “Pick up the paper or I will arrest you for littering.” At the same time, Shaw reached into his pocket and produced his police badge. And the man picked up the scraps of paper which ended the incident.
Shaw has a BA degree in Theology from Niagara University in Niagara, New York. He and his wife, Joyce, started out living in Montpelier but after a few years they bought a house in Barre. They have three daughters. “My eldest daughter lives in Georgia, Vermont,” Shaw said. “My second daughter lives in Belgrade, Maine. And my baby daughter lives in Cicero, New York.” Altogether Shaw and his wife have five granddaughters and one grandson.
When Shaw told me he was going to be 80 in July, I said, “You don’t look it.”
“I don’t feel it, mostly,” he replied
But at the end of the month Shaw’s work for the City of Montpelier will end. “I signed my retirement papers,” Shaw said firmly. After a pause, he added, “I love gardening. I grow veggies around my deck.” Reflecting on what it was like to be out on streets and interacting with the public, he said, “I like people. I love people. I enjoy working with them. I’m going to miss it.”
As Richard Shaw takes leave of Montpelier and leaves his work in law enforcement across Central Vermont after 50 years – the people he has served and his many friends — including his friends at The Bridge — thank him and wish him well.
Editor’s Note: According to Richard Shaw, when he started out writing parking tickets about 20 years ago the cost of a standard ticket was four dollars. “I think it was four bucks,” he said. “I can’t remember but I think it was four bucks.” These days if you get a standard overtime parking ticket in Montpelier it will cost you $10. If you are more than 10 days late in paying for the ticket, it will cost you $16.