By Ginni Spencer and Joan Bowen
The Bedford Citizen has the distinct pleasure of reporting that our founder, Meredith McCulloch, has been recognized as Bedford’s Citizen of the Year for 2018.
McCulloch is a long-term resident of Bedford who moved here with her family in 1968 and resided for many years at 3 Evans Avenue before moving in 2016 to Carleton-Willard Village. This nearly 50-year period has been continuously characterized by service and commitment to the town she unabashedly loves.
She is perhaps best-known community-wide for her distinguished role as Reference Librarian, Assistant Director and Director of the Bedford Public Library beginning in 1970 and ending with her retirement in 2005. As Director, she was a principal interface between the Library and the construction company that built the addition the Library which was completed in 1991. A Library Trustee during that period said, “Meredith helped lead the trustees through the complex process of developing strong local support…applying for grants…building partnerships with the stakeholders…and then managing the actual design, construction…all while maintaining existing library services…”
Reflecting on another aspect of changes to the library – from a book and paper place to one whose collection was becoming more and more digital, another Library Trustee during this period observed, “The library she retired from was not the library she first served as Assistant Director. Without her contributions, these transitions would not have been as successful as they were.”
McCulloch’s deeply held beliefs regarding the importance of a public library to the health and well-being of community life and civic participation are reflected in the thoughtful use of space in the new addition and associated renovation. Similarly, the staff she developed during her tenure was guided by her philosophy of openness, inclusion, and respect for patrons. In 2003, she initiated the first “One Book, One Bedford” program which introduced a book to all of Bedford to read and discuss. Ancillary programs including speakers (frequently the author himself or herself), movies, and discussion groups were provided to enrich the reader’s understanding and foster communication among all the participants. This program was offered annually until 2013.
McCulloch was appointed to the Finance Committee in 2008 and served for five years. She is a member of the Bedford League of Women Voters and served as its president from 1977 until 1979. Her focus on clear communication and voter education to promote informed citizen participation has been the hallmark of her work in town government.
McCulloch has a long and robust association with the First Parish Unitarian Church in Bedford providing leadership as president of the parish board and as church moderator. She worked closely with Sarah Dorer, another First Parish member, to develop a six-week course for high schoolers entitled “X-Rated Civics: The Naked Truth About Your Rights; A Unitarian Universalist Approach to Civics” focusing on the rights enumerated in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Ms. Dorer said, “Meredith’s knowledge of the Constitution of the United States is extensive as is her passion for ensuring that each person has his/her own copy of the Constitution. She arrived at the first session of the course with a huge box of pocket-sized copies of the Constitution…”
With this background in mind, it comes as no surprise that McCulloch, along with former resident Kim Seibert and current resident Julie Turner, founded The Bedford Citizen as a free, online newspaper whose mission is to provide reliable information about all aspects of town life to encourage and support citizen engagement. Drawing on her beliefs about the importance of the free flow of information in a democracy and her love of responsible journalism and public libraries as a conduit for both, she has made a huge contribution to the success of The Citizen. She has served on its Board of Directors since its inception and works tirelessly as assignments editor, reporter, and donor. Coming full circle, she initiated a “re-birth” of “One Book, One Bedford” in 2017 with the introduction of Congressman John Lewis’s memoir written especially for young people in the graphic novel format.
Bedford is fortunate to have many residents who participate in town life in various ways and collectively ensure that our town remains a vibrant and caring community. Recognition as Citizen of the Year calls out those who have gone above and beyond and serve as an aspirational example to all of us. This year, we salute Meredith McCulloch as she joins this august honor roll of distinguished residents of Bedford who lead us with integrity and enthusiasm…and most importantly, get things done.