The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Remembering a dear friend, Joe Sargent

I met Joseph Sargent in 1954 in Hartford, CT.

He and I grew up in West Hartford, CT though we did not know one another, however, we did have mutual friends.
The meeting in Hartford at which I met Joe was set up by a good friend Thomas Bodine an executive of Connecticut  General Insurance for the purpose of finding an investor to provide seed money for the development of Killington Ski Resort. Joe and I both had recently married.

Joe had also just joined a stock brokerage company Conning and Co. which he later bought.

Walter Morrison back from the Marines became interested and we all gathered with legal counsel to form the original company Sherburne Corporation, I believe it was, April 6, 1956. Joe was to take the position of Chairman of the Board and I took the position of President and Chief Executive.

I was (in thumbnail sketch) educated in math, physics, science, geology, agriculture with a family background of progressivism.
Sargent was educated in geology, math,  business, accounting, and banking with a family background of conservatism.

Obviously we were virtually opposites.

Perhaps the most important other ingredient was mutual respect. The ski business would be very difficult for the fact that it encompassed lift transport, trails and skiing, ski school, food and liquor, building construction, road construction and maintenance, vehicle maintenance, real estate sales, real estate development, housekeeping, and all the infrastructure including water mains, sewage disposal and more than can be covered here.

There certainly was more than enough to the business to utilize the individual strengths of both of us. The differences in background created the advantage as these opposites worked together.

While Joe worked in his investment businesses full-time in Hartford he and his growing family travelled to Vermont every weekend faithfully for 40 years.

Sargent, in the early days pitched in on trail clearing or whatever had to be done as we did not have enough money to just hire it done.

Together we did virtually all the lift and trail layout for the first 10 years.

Everyone associated worked tirelessly without recompense. Once we developed a significant income stream (year two) that of course changed to hiring more and more people year after year.

More importantly, as business success grew, Sargent's personal philosophy would become more useful. For example: Our company's evolution was forged out of somewhat unorthodox organizational structure since it was essentially a seasonal business it had to operate 365 days per year and the staff would be subjected to a somewhat  harsh environment if not unusual to the type of person who might be employed in the ski business. Heretofore, it certainly was not thought of as a stable and sustainable living for a person with a family.

Joe always envisioned good remuneration, with a stable and secure employment for all our work including a growth environment to keep the employees standard of living continually improving. This was important to the State of Vermont since there was little opportunity to find a job well paying enough to support a family.

During the 1950's Vermont was losing it's young people and was a very poor state. The State Legislature decided to support the building of roads to ski areas in order to increase revenue and to create jobs so as to stanch the exodus of young people.

One tenet that Joe held was simply "create prosperity for all" which stems from the fact everyone wants and needs to eat. When profits grow, let's have every participant enjoy a growing standard of living. If you're part of the creation you receive more and if you are on the assembly line you too prosper, but to a lessor degree,  simply an American concept.

Sargent was creative and more often than not "thought outside of the box." He put forth the idea of "spy in the sky." We would fly over the parking lots of our competitors taking photos after which we counted the cars in our competitor's parking lots. This allowed us measure our marketing expense and success.

Joseph Sargent indeed had a profound impact on Vermont and the ski business.

Following the sale of the company S-K-I Limited in 1996 he and his family continued driving regularly on weekends to their home at Killington. Sargent loved the mountains of Vermont.