(Unofficial) Mayor Of East Dover Says Friends — And Jugs of Maple Syrup — Keep Him Going At 86

Jun 4, 2018

Over the last couple of months, we have been in the search for the most interesting Vermonters. We've met a 106-year-old from Townshend and a man in Charlotte who grows and gives away 10,000 roses every year.

In his ongoing journey to connect with the most interesting Vermonters, Vermont Edition's Ric Cengeri went to East Dover to meet their affable unofficial mayor, Sonny Brown.

While he's been the town's selectman, a justice of the peace and a dogcatcher, it's his unofficial role as town mayor Brown's best known for.
Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR

What an average day looks like for Sonny Brown:

SB: “Oh, I get up at 4:30 every morning and have my breakfast and go take care of the animals. And 6:30 a.m., 6:45 a.m., I tried to go to the woods, wherever I want to go and stay till 4:00 p.m., 4:30 p.m., sometimes later.

"And in there, of course, I’ve got to get 4,000 bales of hay ready for the wintertime. In between times in the spring, make a little syrup: 200, 250 gallons. I have made 300, but that’s a lot of hard work to cut the wood and fill the sugarhouse back up in spring after it’s over.”

In the winters, the schedule shifts to early mornings plowing anywhere from 77-100 driveways.

“I plow snow and a lot of it!” said Brown.

Sonny’s trick to staying energized throughout the day: Maple Syrup

SB: “I have a little jug of [maple] syrup in each one of the trucks and I take a sip every time in the night when I get tired.  I take a sip and keep right on going.”

Brown in his sugar house on his farm in East Dover, Vermont.
Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR

Ever Thought About Leaving Vermont?

SB: “Never. No never. Not today. I haven't got much money but I got a lot of friends and if anything happens, they'll take care of me and that's worth a lot of money.”

In 86 years, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

SB: “I hope it’s my friends. Good friends that's what I hope. That’s what's been in my life is good friends and I got quite a few of them; friends are pretty nice to have.”

Another famed Vermont dogcatcher:

SB: “Well, I was a selectman for four years and I was a justice of the peace for eight years. And I was dogcatcher for 16 years. I think that's about it.”

How many dogs did Brown catch in his tenure? 

SB: “I wouldn’t even know. Hundreds. I never had to put but only one down. I always found a home. I had to put one down. That's the only thing. So I was glad of that. And some of them were mean, but I always take a hot dog or something … I always got along good with animals.”

Signs over Brown's barn in East Dover, Vermont.
Credit Ric Cengeri / VPR

On how things have changed in East Dover:

SB: "Yes, it's changed a lot. Everything is easier now. But you know everybody back then had the same thing and it wasn't too bad then. It was hard but everybody had — it had to be hard to survive. And I didn't mind it but after seeing today, with all the things we got: the tractors and the forest in the woods and — everything you do everything with your hand and now you don't have to work. I do but most of them don’t.”

On what’s next:

RC: "When are you going to slow down?"

SB: "God, I hope never. I can keep going. I guess I'd better keep going."

If you know of a fellow Vermonter who has had a fascinating life, you can let us know by emailing vermontedition@vpr.net.