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Katie Trautz: 2024 Vermont Downtown Leadership Award

On July 10, Executive Director of Montpelier Alive, Katie Trautz, was hit with the unexpected: days of record rainfall on already saturated ground caused the Winooksi River to breach their banks and inundate downtown Montpelier. The worst flood event in nearly a century resulted in catastrophic damage to both business and residents, and left some people seriously asking if Montpelier’s downtown even had a future. 

A musician, mother, and arts advocate, Katie was just month into her tenure as Executive Director at Montpelier Alive when she demonstrated the creativity, dedication, and leadership that helped a devastated community rise up. In the days after the flood, Katie’s previous plans to grow activities, boost economic development, and celebrate Montpelier’s unique charm were scrapped and she pivoted in ways she never expected. With the assistance of the City Parks Department and community leaders with emergency response experience, she became a central figure in the City’s recovery.

Katie helped lead Montpelier’s volunteer Hub that helped connect almost 4,000 volunteers with people who needed help mucking out water-soaked homes and businesses.

She linked businesses to assistance providers, helping them apply for funding, and helping raise and disperse over $2 million in direct flexible funding to local businesses —many of whom by their own admission would not be operating today if not for that assistance. Of the over 140 downtown businesses impacted by July’s flood, just under one year later, 90% have reopened.

Katie became a trusted source of information. She helped convene a series of well-attended community forums that allowed City to begin a common conversation about the trauma they had experienced, and to consider a long-term vision for resiliency. Today, she serves as a founding Commissioner of the Montpelier Commission on Resilience and Recovery that was formed in the wake of the flood to help Montpelier meet the challenge of a generation.

All the while, Katie continued to manage Montpelier Alive’s activities. She invested in organizational growth – doubling the staff to meet community needs and to enhance revitalization efforts. She has also become a leading voice among other downtown organizations and has shared Montpelier’s story with other communities impacted by climate change from Maine to Alabama. It’s no surprise that Katie won USA Today’s Woman of the Year award for Vermont for her flood recovery efforts in Montpelier.

For ALL her exceptional work leading the community through very difficult times and into an exciting future, the Vermont Downtown Program honors Katie Trautz with the 2024 Downtown Leadership Award.

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