From Colonel to Council : Rosanne Greco Elected as Council Chair

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Thursday March 22, 2012

After a lifetime of working to keep peace, Rosanne Greco’s number one goal for her term as City Council Chair is to communicate, learn from the past, and set a good course for the future.

Greco, who was elected March 14th as the newest Council chair, has a history of hard work, great communication, and a few incredible claims to fame.

Greco’s diligent work ethic was learned at an early age.  After the death of her father when she was nine years old, Greco watched as her mother worked hard to make ends meet in their blue collar neighborhood in Scranton, PA.  She soon recognized that hard work was a means to an end. “As a result, I get involved in everything,” she said.   

City government was not, however, on Greco’s mind when at thirteen years old she went to study at a convent for almost seven years. While she enjoyed the teachings and the experience, she was outspoken, and eventually was dismissed after repeatedly, albeit respectfully, questioning the nuns. Afterwards, she enrolled at Kean College, in Union, New Jersey, as the the first in her family to attend college.

After working at many different jobs, Greco joined the United States Air Force with the goal of pursuing an advanced degree in Clinical Psychology.  With the options for women limited to the fields of administration, education, or Intelligence, Greco chose the Intelligence route. She worked with Photographic Intelligence Imagery Interpretation, and used satellites to take photos of the earth, particularly Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, or ICBMs.  Her first assignment brought her to Thailand, just as the Vietnam War was brought to an end. Throughout her Air Force career, Greco lived in Germany, England, Austria and Switzerland, as well as in Nebraska, Washington DC, Texas, Colorado, Alabama, Maryland, and Virginia.

“Living in these places,” Greco said, reminiscing, “gave me a whole lot of perspective.  I see things happening here that I’ve seen happening elsewhere, and I want to make sure that they are set right.” 

Greco had not planned on being in the military for so long, but after multiple promotions she chose to continue her service to the country and acquired a  masters degree in Clinical Psychology. 

The U.S. military had not yet assigned women to nuclear disarmament.  However, because of her background in psychology, she was an excellent fit for negotiations. “That’s when I started to have my Forrest Gump moments,” Greco laughed.  After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan for the first time, President Reagan resumed arms control talks between the United States and the Soviets.  The President wanted to meet all of his negotiators, including Greco.  She proudly shook his hand as he went down the line, only to be photographed when he was shaking the hand of the man next to her.
During her years working at the Pentagon and at the UN in New York, she met President Clinton, worked on treaties of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons as Political Planner for Secretary of State Colin Powell, and even discussed humanitarian affairs with Kofi Annan.  Throughout her military career, Greco said she worked to further peace.  “If Intelligence is done correctly, countries do not go to war.” 

When Greco retired from the military as a Colonel, after 29 years, she took up dancing, married her husband, and moved to Burlington, where she had dreamed of living the entire time her homes were being decided for her.

Upon moving here in 2008, Greco had no family, no friends, and not a job in sight, so she took to volunteering full time.  She wanted to get to know her area and it’s people right away – a trait that she had learned from moving around every three years in the military.  She began to build a foundation of people, making friends as she worked for Habitat for Humanity, her Unitarian Church, choir, animal welfare ministries, and even helped rebuild in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  After creating many bonds, Greco found that she was inherently interested in politics, and wanted to learn what was happening in her city.  Greco soon started attending City Council meetings. Former Council Chair Sandy Dooley noted Greco’s continued attendance at meetings and suggested to her that she run for City Council; she was elected in March 2011.

In her new role at Council chair, Greco says she wants to get together often with the Council as well as the residents of South Burlington to discuss goals and priorities, and also measure their progress.  She wants to establish a method of communication with the residents, and stop misunderstandings from happening, because in her mind that is what puts people at odds with one another.
“I don’t like sides,” Greco said.  According to her philosophy, neighbors should not be angry with neighbors.  She wants to come up with a strategy to receive information from residents, to ensure that they are not intimidated, and to set an open, accepting tone.  When talking about diversity, she described a city much like the human body, where we need all different parts to function to make the whole great. “We all want the good, and the best for our city,” she said.  She believes we might be too focused on the short term and have lost perspective.  To put it in military terms, which she knows best, she wants to make sure that we are not too focused on winning the battle, but instead winning the war. 

In addition to her duties as City Council Chair, Greco works part time as a leader for Weight Watchers. Her husband, Higley Harmon, is a full-time bus driver for the South Burlington school system and also works part-time delivering bread for Klinger’s Bakery.  They live with their beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Gina.

SOURCE: Lisa Mattingly Correspondent