Earlier this year, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger made a nationwide search for a permanent CAO, but he found the right man for the job just a few miles down the road in South Burlington’s city offices, where Rusten was serving as deputy city manager. According to published sources, Weinberger said that Rusten’s extensive experience in government, as well as his record of turning around city finances, made him the standout candidate.
“I’m very pleased to be able to do this,” said Rusten. “The mayor is so energetic about moving forward, and to be involved in this challenging and exciting environment, it got the juices going, and with approval from the city council, it was just gratifying they had that level of confidence in me.”
Before he was hired to work in South Burlington, Rusten served as Wilmington town manager from 2006 to 2010. In that time Rusten worked on creating clearer town budgets, three of which cut tax rates while increasing services. Rusten also had a hand in helping to create the numerous committees in town, and was involved with both the tri-town economic committee and regional economic development.
“Bob was a great facilitator,” said Tom Consolino, former selectboard chair who served while Rusten was town manager. “More often then not he provided us with a budget surplus, and that’s his genius. He spent an enormous amount of time on the budget and ran a very tight ship.” Before he was hired as Wilmington town manager, Rusten served as a Windham County state representative for the towns of Wilmington, Whitingham, and Halifax, as well as Searsburg and Somerset at times. While in the House, he served on the Ways and Means Committee, rewriting many state tax policies. Rusten is also proud of the work he and others did on Act 68 in 2003, which amended the education funding system created by Act 60, which he opposed.
Rusten also said the state’s legalization of civil unions for same sex couples in 2000 was a defining moment of his term. “Being the first state to provide legal enactment was highly controversial at the time but a big step forward,” said Rusten. “History shows we took the lead in a civil rights case which led to other states making the same laws.” In his latest job in South Burlington a city of 18,000, Rusten was tasked with overseeing city finances. He will continue in that capacity in his new post, as well as overseeing the clerk and treasurer’s offices, and a staff of 20 to 30 people. His work will also include assisting the mayor and city council in achieving their financial goals, as well as bargaining with unions and associations. He is also proud of his work to address underfunding of the town’s retirement system.
While he has worked in small towns and larger cities, Rusten said that the same work applies, just to larger entities. “Wilmington had the wastewater sewer plant, we have an airport,” explains Rusten. “It’s just more varied kinds of issues and budgets, but what doesn’t change, wherever I’ve gone, is that you are able to rely on other people. It’s certainly larger and bigger challenges, but what’s nice is having a group to collaborate with and to help you.”