I grew up in Barnard and attended the Barnard Central School when there were only two classrooms, but went away after high school like most of my peers. It didn’t take long before the Green Mountains beckoned me back home, but I struggled to find my place and my calling. I took the initiative and found success in my chosen field while also getting involved in special education at my old high school. Three and a half years ago I was encouraged to pursue an appointment to the House seat vacated by the late Mark Mitchell, who served our district well for five years. When the opportunity presented itself I made the decision to throw my hat into the ring almost right away. I was sick of griping about national and state politics and I wanted to get more involved and bring a younger perspective to the table. I embarked on the steep trajectory of learning the process and understanding the issues and I won the appointment a week before Irene came through. During my three years serving Windsor County’s 4-1 district I have successfully presented and defended bills and amendments on the House floor while cultivating effective working relationships with legislators of all political persuasions. Two years ago I supported efforts to overhaul an education funding system that is overly reliant on property taxes, breaking ranks with the majority of my caucus. These efforts were controversial and were defeated but gained enough traction to move my party to commit to transformative action next year. I have also stood up for our small schools and overly burdened property taxpayers by opposing both the elimination of the Small Schools grants and a proposed decrease in the excess spending threshold, which hurts smaller schools disproportionately. I did not support the governance/consolidation bill because I didn’t believe that it accommodated enough local input in determining the future of our schools. Governance changes will need to be implemented to try and bend the spending curve while creating better opportunities for students, but there needs to be public engagement in the process, much like how the Vermont Council on Rural Development devised the successful Working Lands initiative. I will continue to work with other legislators to ensure strong community engagement in any proposed governance changes if reelected.
During my three years on the Agriculture and Forest Products Committee we have expanded market opportunities for Vermont’s food system entrepreneurs in a sector that is approaching $2 billion dollars over the past five years and growing at a faster rate than the rest of Vermont’s economy – growing jobs and business ventures across the state. I helped draft the Working Lands Act, presented the industrial hemp and GMO labeling bills on the floor of the House, and supported an amendment to Act 250 that would allow for greater flexibility for developers while preserving prime agricultural soils (the bill was later defeated but there is growing consensus that Act 250 can be streamlined while still fulfilling its original purpose). I also introduced the state’s first Fourth Amendment protection bill in response to widespread government surveillance with a Republican, an Independent and a Progressive as co-sponsors. When the bill banning handheld electronic devices was on the verge of passing, I noticed a flaw in the language that would have prohibited even the activation and deactivation of hands-free functionality and proposed an amendment that allows for limited interaction with an affixed device. The most satisfying part of my job as your representative is solving constituent problems outside of the legislative process, and I have done this on numerous occasions by working with department and agency officials to remedy situations created either by government oversight or corporate disservice.
Vermont is now at a historically critical juncture as we endeavor to transform and improve our education and healthcare systems, among others. I have listened to the needs and suggestions of my constituency and carried these with me into my collaborative work with other lawmakers. Making and changing state policies is an arduous process and many good ideas take years to percolate to fruition. As one of 180 legislators my power is limited, but my influence is only limited by my efforts. Progress is made in Montpelier with more than just good ideas or aggressive challenging of the status quo. Real progress is made with collaborative, productive working relationships with members from all parties, with committee chairs, caucus leadership, and administration officials. I have cultivated these relationships for the past three years and have earned the respect and trust of my colleagues. As one of the youngest legislators in Vermont and one not afraid to rock the majority boat, my positions are noted and have influence. When the legislative session begins in January we will have little time to spare with Vermonters expecting action and results. I’m ready to go and hope you’ll send me back to work on your behalf for another two years. You can contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 234-9125. Don’t forget to vote on or before November 4th!