Brad Armstrong began his position as the Town of Marlinton VISTA last month, and he will be focusing on building a sustainable recreation econ- omy and helping build community engagement in initiatives like HubCAP, Mon Forest Towns and other recreation-related projects.
“I have four objectives as guiding principles, but other stuff will arise,” he said. “This is all fluid. I think there’s kind of two pieces to it and one is working with the town and behind the scenes to build systems and processes to make everybody’s work easier, and the second is to work from the ground, connecting people with different opportunities.”
Tasks will include grant writing to build on current programs and possibly creating new programs centered around recreation in the town.
Along with his VISTA duties, Armstrong is also a caretaker at Yew Mountain Center, with his partner Melody Spencer. The caretaker position is what brought the pair to Pocahontas County and led Armstrong to take the VISTA position.
The couple was living in Mexico and in need of a change. They put feelers out on Facebook and Yew Mountain Center director Erica Marks came across a post and reached out.
“We had a couple of conversations with [Erica] and decided to jump out of the boat and see what happens,” Armstrong said. “That’s pretty much the weird story of how we got here.”
It’s an interesting story that gets more interesting as Armstrong explained that this move is a return to the Appalachian Mountains for him and Spencer.
He was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Connecticut, in the northern end of the range, while Florida born Spencer was from the southern end of the range, living in Kentucky, Alabama and North Carolina.
They moved to Hillsboro, without having ever heard of Pocahontas County or having ever considered living in West Virginia.
“When this popped up, it was like that ancestral [call] – this is our heartland of the heartland kind of thing,” he said.
The VISTA position with the Town of Marlinton is actually Armstrong’s third with AmeriCorps.
“I’ve done two service terms,” he said. “This is my third. I love the work. I like community building, community development work. I like service work. I’m not someone that really cares about the money. I’d rather do good work that needs to be done. AmeriCorps scratches a couple of itches for me.
“It’s that I get to serve,” he continued. “I get to do work that a lot of jobs and job titles don’t allow you. A lot of that stuff is very narrow. AmeriCorps is kind of this go out in the community and make things happen. There’s some creativity about it, so I like those aspects.”
The position in Marlinton fit a lot of those requirements and Armstrong said it was a perfect fit for him.
“I chose this one because it was a mix of project management, economic development, community development and the outdoor recreation piece,” he said. “All of those are either things I’ve done, part of who I am, or something that I’m working into career-wise.”
Armstrong read the job description and he decided – “that’s me.”
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