Trump, Kushner’s Rumored Visit to Vt. Sparks Privacy Debate

  • Swimmers and kayakers enjoy Silver Lake in Barnard, Vt., on Aug. 17, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Land is posted by Twin Farms along the Royalton Turnpike in Barnard, Vt., on Aug 17, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, August 17, 2017

Barnard — The recent rumored presence of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner at a posh local getaway has area residents split on whether the couple deserves the same privacy afforded to other rich and famous visitors, or whether the family of President Donald Trump should be prevailed upon to engage with Vermonters on political topics through protests or face-to-face conversations.

“You don’t call attention,” said Suzanne Milord, who has retired from a career in the service industry and owns a cottage in Barnard. Milord said she is no fan of the Trump White House, but she would never dream of bringing her personal political opinions into a chance encounter with an actual Trump family member. Giving high-profile guests a chance to operate under the radar is a basic tenet of the contract between the upper crust and those who serve them, Milord said.

Trump and Kushner reportedly were aboard a Trump-branded helicopter that was spotted refueling at the Lebanon Municipal Airport on Monday and then landing in Barnard, not far from Twin Farms, a resort and spa that commands prices of up to $2,950 per night.

Maintaining that decorum is part of the reason that Barnard has successfully drawn visitors including actor Charles Bronson, former Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles, radio shock jock Howard Stern and actress Renee Taylor to come and enjoy the rolling fields and waters of the small New England community.

Rumors that the couple was in the state to attend a wedding in Waitsfield had sign-waving protesters in that town holding a public vigil on Wednesday, in which they urged Kushner and Trump to “embrace love, embrace peace.”

The reported Vermont vacation comes at a time when Trump and Kushner have come under particular scrutiny for their response to the furor surrounding a series of violent incidents in Charlottesville, Va., by white supremacist protesters.

Carrie Caouette-Delallo and her daughter Molly Delallo, who were sunning themselves beside Silver Lake on Thursday afternoon, said they would support people taking similar confrontational actions in Barnard.

“I’ve been coming here with my family for 20 years,” said Caouette-Delallo, a teacher from Royalton who has been a harsh critic of Donald Trump’s public stances. “I would hate for Barnard to become a hub for people like them.”

Caouette-Delallo said the fact that Kushner and Trump are in a position to influence national policy, and that they chose to enter the public sphere, mean all bets are off when it comes to privacy.

“We are paying taxes to support them,” she said. “When you’re quiet, it could be seen as complicity, and I don’t want to be complicit.”

The younger Delallo, who recently graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in political science, said the two are not good role models for young working professionals, and that she would have rather seen them come to Vermont to engage with residents in a town hall-style conversation about issues that matter.

“Don’t just stay in Barnard,” she said. “Go into the Northeast Kingdom and see some of the communities that have been ravaged by drugs. Go into Barre.”

Dean Jillson, a retired plumber and electrician who grew up in Barnard, said he would try not to be confrontational if he bumped into Kushner or Trump on the street, but that he would like for them to know his opinion of Trump’s father.

“I would say I don’t respect him,” he said.

But there were signs on Thursday that the high-powered couple may already have flown out of Barnard. There was no sign of activity at the Twin Farms entrance, which features stacked stone columns and a black iron gate operated by a keypad entry system.

And at Barnard General Store, staffers declined comment, but intimated that Trump and Kushner were no longer in town.

Because high-profile visitors often confine themselves to places that only resort employees have access to, it can be difficult for outsiders to pierce the resultant veil of secrecy.

Milord said she has a relative who works at Twin Farms who had stayed tight-lipped despite fielding a barrage of questions about Trump and Kushner from a variety of friends and acquaintances.

And that’s how it should be, said Sara Widness, who has had a long career in the five-star hospitality industry and has hosted noted historian Niall Ferguson at The Fan House, the small Barnard-based bed-and-breakfast that she currently runs.

“Always, privacy is foremost,” she said.

Widness suggested that Barnard, which serves as a second home to a number of East Coast celebrities, has developed a reputation as a discreet getaway.

“These people have a need to escape the bells and whistles and the high tech of modern life,” she said. “It’s a very respectful community here. We understand the need for people of any persuasion to find solace in the gentle countryside of Vermont.”

One Barnard resident, former state representative and filmmaker Teo Zagar, found a special irony in the fact that Kushner and Trump are being hosted by Twin Farms, a 300-acre property that first gained fame when it was purchased by novelist Sinclair Lewis and journalist Dorothy Thompson in 1928.

Zagar, who currently is filming a documentary about Lewis and Thompson, said the present controversy embroiling the White House couple would be troubling to Lewis, who wrote the famous anti-fascist political novel It Can’t Happen Here in 1935, and Thompson, who was expelled from Germany and became a leading voice against Nazism.

“They’re probably spinning in their graves,” Zagar said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.