Brian Tobin

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View Brian's resume here.

Why would you like to serve on the City Market Board? What excites you about becoming a Board Member?

I've been an active City Market member since I moved to Burlington in 2010.  What excites me about becoming a Board Member is engaging in a business and community center that has been focal to my experience in Vermont.  I love the mission of the coop and I believe that our coop makes a significant, positive impact on our community.  I would feel proud and energized to help guide the thinking and decisions that the coop is making.  I would be excited about fostering a decision-making process that guides our coop to be effective as a business but also considers our impact on the greater community and the Earth.  The process of balancing financial success and impact is a slow, challenging, but incredibly important task that I would like to be a part of.

Please describe any professional skills you have that will help you to be an effective Board Member. How would you help the Board to balance the business needs of a $50 million business with the need to meet our Global Ends as a community-owned cooperative?

I have two sets of skills that will make me an effective Board Member; being versed in business and finance and being an effective communicator.  I am versed in business management and financial operations.  I have worked in numerous businesses where my responsibilities include understanding spreadsheets, financial information, and human resources considerations.  I can apply these experiences to the work as a Board Member to make effective business, financial, and HR decisions.  As a small business owner, I continue to learn and consult with my financial advisors to make effective tax, payroll, and personnel decisions that will help me to effectively contribute as a Board Member.

The other set of skills that will help me to be an effective Board Member is being an empathetic and effective communicator.  I am a psychotherapist and I know how to listen to others to determine what someone is communicating, or trying to communicate.  Using my communication skills will help me to understand other Board Members and stakeholders in our meetings.

Describe your prior involvement with community organizations and/or cooperatives. What did you learn from these experiences?

I've been living in Vermont for 13 years and have worked within many community organizations that are affiliated with City Market.  Some of my farming experience showed me the close-knit and personal connections that are the foundation of our coop.  I have seen how the coop is a large business, but it's fundamentally a place that nourishes our community and is run by great people.  There are people in both stores that have years or decades of experience and commitment to this coop.  This type of steadiness and commitment to the values of the coop are how the coop maintains the relationships with amazing producers and stays effectively tied into the global supply chain.

From my experiences, I also learned that the commitment to real food and a local food mission requires careful thinking and commitments. I have learned that it is a carefully crafted set of values and purchasing practices that creates the product selection that the co-op has. This careful decision making and intricate web of local and global partners is why the co-op can do what it does. I hope to be a part of the Board of Directors and help to continue to uphold that conscious, ethical decision making process that are the foundation of our co-op.

City Market, Onion River Co-op is a learning organization committed to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) work. What opportunities do you see as a Board member to support these initiatives at City Market and how would you ensure that the Board’s work is grounded in these principles? Describe any prior involvement in JEDI work either personally or professionally.

It takes an intensive commitment to bring JEDI work comprehensively into an organization. JEDI work is not just words that are included in a mission or vision statement. JEDI work must be imbued into every part of an organization's thinking to effectively make change and interrupt oppressive forces.

I was immersed in DEI work while I worked at Middlebury College. I chose to put my office in the Anderson Freeman Center (AFC). The AFC is a student center and hub for students from marginalized social locations, LGBTQ students, and International students. I served as a consultant between the Counseling team and the AFC while providing individual counseling to students. It was an honor to learn and work with the directors of DEI efforts on the campus. From this experience, I learned that it takes time for old systems of thinking to fade away and it is aided by having JEDI values emphasized and centralized in the thinking of administration and visioning groups. I hope to bring this lens to the City Market Board of Directors.

What opportunities and challenges do you see in the future of City Market?

City Market has the opportunity to continue to balance two thriving stores while committing resources into the greater community. I think that City Market can continue to harmonize the two-store operation to create greater profits while maintaining our values and mission. As we continue to create a lean system and uphold our values, we have the opportunity to continue partnerships, donations, and collaboration within the Burlington community and larger Vermont community.

I think that the challenges that we face are a changing world that makes producing vibrant and affordable food challenging. In the coming years we will continue to face a changing climate and a fragile supply chain system that will require us to respond effectively and thoughtfully. As we've seen in the last years, things are always changing and it will be our challenge to keep effectively adapting to the challenges and uphold our mission.