I was still in college the summer of 1985 when I came to Burlington to teach sailing for the summer. My sister set me up with a sublet on Hungerford Terrace, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I never wanted to leave.I I fell in love with Lake Champlain, and the indomitable spirit of Burlingtonians. Bernie Sanders was mayor at the time, and I was shocked when he actually came knocking on my door! (While we all expect this now, it was a novel concept then). I appreciated the deep level of engagement Burlingtonians had with their community, their commitment to “work hard/play hard,” and the gratitude that seemed universally shared. Gratitude for the privilege of living here, between the lake and the mountains and among people committed to caring for each other and making our City and our world a better place. Except for a brief stay in Pennsylvania to finish my degree in Government from Franklin and Marshall College, Burlington has been my home since that first summer.
In 1994, I married my husband, Ken Grillo, an IBM engineer, who shares my passion for historic homes, sailing, and Burlington. We moved to the Lakeside neighborhood and started fostering a revolving door of rescue dogs. I was working in sales jobs for various companies, and in 1998, I launched a long torso swimwear company called “Longbody’s Swimwear.” I designed and manufactured swimwear locally and in Canada, and sold them to retail stores across the country for the next 10 years.
The birth of my daughter Julia in 2002 was closely followed by my first election to the City Council. Life with a new baby, city council meetings, and a husband who traveled for work frequently, was not easy. In fact, it would not have been possible without the friend who recruited me to run. (Pro-tip: If you want to convince someone to run for City Council, offer to babysit, cook meals, walk the dog, etc). Thanks to a high level of community support and the heroic effort by one volunteer, service on the council and new motherhood worked out pretty well!
In 2009, I became a realtor, which was much more accommodating of both my daughter’s schedule and City Council obligations. . I worked in a two-person “shop” called Wynne Associates, which was owned by Sandy Wynne. Sandy and I happily worked as a team until Sandy’s retirement last year, when I joined Coldwell Banker Hickok and Boardman.
During my long tenure on the City Council I have served as Chair of the Ordinance Committee, Chair of the Charter Change Committee, and Chair of the Parks, Arts and Culture Committee. I have also been on the Board of Finance and served 3 years as President of the City Council. I presided over enormously contentious meetings, including those during the “Occupy Movement,” gun control debates, and an F-35 debate that set a record for the largest number of people to ever attend a meeting at City Hall.
Some of my proudest actions as a City Councilor include
Leading the charge to ban smoking in bars and clubs (believe it or not, this was HIGHLY controversial at the time)
Creating the Blue Ribbon Committee that brought the expertise we needed to the table to resolve the $52 million Burlington Telecom crisis
Leading the rezoning of Pine St to include most of the things people now love: cafes, offices, dance studios, ArtsRiot, restaurants, etc.
Bringing the “per pupil weighting” issue to table, resulting in (after much heavy input by school board members) substantially increased state funding for our schools.
I have held a lifelong core belief that government exists to serve people and always keep this front of mind when making decisions on behalf of my constituents. I am guided by a passion for pragmatism in service of community needs. I believe that no one has the monopoly on good ideas and often work across party lines to find agreement in both conservative and progressive ideologies, but I remain unmarried to any particular political ideology. This approach has resulted in broad support from across the political spectrum for our “All Hands On Deck” campaign, which is intentionally inclusive, not only in word, but in practice.
Together we will make Burlington the vibrant, livable City we all know it can be. Please join our All Hands On Deck Team to make this vision possible!
Please call me or email me with any questions or concerns. My email is Joan@JoanShannonVT.com