Jolinda LaClair receives the 2008 Bernice R. Murray Award for Years of Dedication to Community Development in Vermont and the NationMontpelier, VT, November 19, 2008 – USDA Rural Development State Director for Vermont and New Hampshire, Jolinda LaClair, was presented with the Bernice R. Murray Award at the Vermont Community Development Association’s (VCDA) Annual Meeting.Ms. LaClair received this award which is given in the memory of Bernice Murray, who was well-known for her dedication to and support of community development while serving in her role as State Director of Senator James Jeffords and then as State Director for USDA Farmers Home Administration (now Rural Development). Like Bernice Murray, Jolinda has dedicated her career and personal life in support of community development throughout Vermont and the nation in her role as State Director for USDA Rural Development and through her civic commitment to her local and statewide community organizations. Ms. LaClair has served as the State Director for USDA Rural Development since 2001. She has assisted many organizations such as the Vermont Council on Rural Development, Housing Vermont, Vermont Community Development Association and the Northeastern Vermont Development Association, serving as a board member or resource person. Her most recent board appointment is with Vermont Works for Women, whose mission is to help women and girls pursue and excel in nontraditional careers, a role which compliments the memory of Bernice Murray. She is a former State Advisor for the University of Vermont Extension Service, and a current member of the Northern Forest Economic Initiative Steering Committee to develop a four-state economic development strategy for the Northern Forest region.Within USDA Rural Development, Jolinda is currently Chair of the National Training Committee and served on the Field Structure Consistency and RD 2010 Committees.Prior to joining RD, LaClair worked for U.S. Senator James Jeffords for 15 years in roles ranging from State Director to Campaign Manager. Jolinda also worked as Director of Congressional Relations for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.As State Director, she manages a staff of 64 and delivers over 40 loan and grant programs that provide financial and technical assistance to foster growth opportunities for business development, home ownership, and critical community infrastructure. “Jolinda’s career matches her personal passion for community involvement perfectly.” Said Jon-Michael Muise, Vice President of the Vermont Community Development Association. “As the State Director for USDA Rural Development, she has created public and private partnerships throughout Vermont and New Hampshire that have facilitated the financial investment of more than $1 billion for community infrastructure including emergency services and telecommunications, housing, and business development.” The Vermont Community Development Association is an organization of individuals who are interested in working together on community development issues of importance to Vermonters. More information about VCDA can be found at www.vtcda.org(link is external).USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in Rural America. This is done by providing financial and technical assistance to foster growth and new opportunities for business development, home ownership, and critical community and technology infrastructure. To learn more about USDA Rural Development programs visit the web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/vt(link is external).