New VT sheriff fills late wife's job

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August 10, 2011, 5:56 pm

(NECN: Jack Thurston, North Hero, VT) - The tiny 1820s courthouse in North Hero, Vt. played host to a changing of the guard Wednesday. Dozens came to witness the swearing-in ceremony for the county's new sheriff.

"Overwhelmed, just an honor and a privilege," Sheriff Ray Allen said, describing his first day on the job.

Allen was picked to head the Grand Isle County Sheriff's Department, but as his dad observed, it was a celebration no one wanted to see.

"There are a lot of mixed emotions here today," the sheriff's father, also named Ray Allen, said.

Allen is replacing the former sheriff, who took her own life earlier this summer. She was someone the new leader knew better than anyone, because she was his wife: Connie Allen.

"She and I had worked side by side for 19 years," Sheriff Allen said.

Ray Allen served as a deputy all those years. His late spouse was one of Vermont's first and only female sheriffs, elected in 2002.

"We all know she was an extraordinary mom, grandmother, and wife," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. "She was extraordinarily well-respected in this county."

Following Connie Allen's death, the community almost unanimously wanted the family to stay at the head of the department. "She'd be proud," her widower said.

Connie Allen's sister wrote a letter to the newspaper that serves Grand Isle County saying Allen loved her job as sheriff and lived her life with compassion. The sister asked Allen's neighbors to honor her life by continuing her work to empower the kids of the county. That includes a youth summer camp that stresses respect for others.

Grand Isle County is Vermont's smallest, home to only about 7,000 people. It boasts lots of farmland and gorgeous views of Lake Champlain. Connie Allen loved the area, and the man who loved her is proud to work to keep Grand Isle County a safe and nice place to live.

"All that's going to continue," Sheriff Allen said.

Tags: Ray Allen, vermont, Jack Thurston, North Hero, Grand Isle County Sheriff
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