We asked legislators about the high turnover. Here’s what they said

by Guy Page

42 of the 180 legislators in the Vermont General Assembly won’t be seeking re-election to their current seats.

On Monday, Vermont Daily Chronicle asked about 50 undecided/unknown lawmakers if they plan to run. We also asked them why they think turnover is at an all-time high. In their own words, here are the responses – which seem fairly representative of the entire legislative body. Note: Reps. Colston and Martel will not be seeking re-election. The rest quoted below are running again.

Rep. Jessica Brumstead, D-Shelburne

The last couple of years have been rough; working remotely, participating in hybrid setups, and just being overall worried about either getting Covid or giving it to someone who is at high risk of getting very sick. It weighs on you, you know?  

I am home and have been home for the past 9 days because I have Covid and I can’t seem to shake it. I feel pretty horrible, and I hope all the time that I didn’t spread it to anyone ele.

Rep. Brian Smith, R-Derby

Derby has become a single member district so if elected I will be Derby only. I regret not representing Holland, Charleston, Morgan and Brownington! Many fine folks in these towns and I regret not being able to represent them in Montpelier. I think people are leaving politics because they are fed up with the way things are headed in Vermont. And, if the majority stays…they will be at fault for what may come.

Rep. Hal Colston, D-Winooski

I am retiring and moving to Aruba this fall so I am not running for reelection. I know being on Zoom for two years was very tough on a lot of legislators. Perhaps this is a factor for so many choosing not to run again.

Rep. Chip Troiano, D-Hardwick

Some have been in the House and Senate for a long time and have decided it has been long enough. Others find that they have not been able to be as effective as they would like. You know, as a citizen legislature it is often difficult to manage a job and family with the demands to the Legislature. The end of each session can be stressful and very time consuming. There are some who just can not manage that.

Rep. Nelson Brownell, D-Pownal

Health. Family. Pay. 

Rep. Carol Ode, D-Burlington

There are probably as many reasons as there are legislators retiring. 

For some it’s the time commitment and time spent away from family. For others it’s the end of many years of service to Vermont. Some are running for statewide office and some are leaving the House to run for the Senate. Covid-19 might have played a role in the decision of those who fear bringing the virus home to family members with compromised immune systems.

The work is as difficult as it is rewarding.

Rep. Brian Cina, P-Burlington

Some of the reasons I heard for lawmakers not running: challenges for working people and parents to balance duties, manage time, or afford to live on the pay/benefits, stress/burnout from the pandemic, frustration with politics, making space for new leadership, feeling like they had done enough in the position and needing other opportunities for personal growth, and aspirations for higher office.

Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington

It is hard to say why so many are not running again in the House and the  Senate. I am sure that they each have different reasons. However, our  economists have cautioned several times over the last two years that even with all  of the federal funding and COVID relief  funding (which is taxpayer funding) that has come into the state, we may have  challenges sustaining programs  going forward. Some of those concerns  came even before all that is going on  around the country presently. Inflation, cost  of gas, heating oil and diesel, shortage  of  products across the board, food, etc., which  is financially affecting our citizens negatively  and significantly. Having six chairpersons stepping down from Appropriations, Ways & Means, Health Care, Education, Agriculture  and Government Operations is significant. I do not believe that I have seen such a turn over in all of my years of serving. I truly wish all of my fellow colleagues who are not seeking re-election the very best! 

Rep. Lisa Hango, R-Berkshire

I’ve had conversations with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and to a person, particularly those who have been long-serving, they’ve all told me that the tenor of their work has changed dramatically since they began their legislative careers. Many spoke about how today’s legislators behave more like activists than representatives of their constituents, and that the pandemic caused everyone to feel as if they lost two years of their lives, so to make up for it, legislators worked at a frenetic pace on all the causes they got elected on two years ago. Several mentioned that they finally got legislation approved that had been a priority for years, and it was time for them to move on to leisure pursuits. I know that many of my long-serving colleagues will find retirement a well-deserved break.

Rep. Marcia Martel, R-Waterford

Too many legislators are there for their own agendas and nothing more. Doing good things for the state seems to have gone by the wayside.

Rep. Mike Morgan, R-W. Milton/Grand Isle

People are frustrated and COVID weary.

Rep. Erin Brady, D-Williston

There are many veteran members who have served for a long time, and though they will missed dearly, they deserve a real retirement.

Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison

I think one reason is how stressful the last three sessions (2020, 2021, and 2022) have been. First, we had to deal with Covid itself on behalf of all Vermonters. While Covid seems relatively tame now, it felt like a shockingly life-and-death situation at the beginning of the pandemic. 

On top of that, we were remote almost the entire time, and while we were able to get work done, it was much harder without all the informal time talking with one another that is so essential to lawmaking — e.g. hallway conversations, going through the cafeteria line with someone, and meals together. So, the work environment was stressful. 

Perhaps those two factors together have worn out more than the usual number of people; it was often exhausting, and there was so little of the fun and camaraderie that helps us pull one another through the hard parts of the job.

Sen. Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden

I think it’s probably pretty similar to why waves of workers are retiring in almost every sector – the pandemic shifted people’s views about what they can do before retirement, shifted their economic outlook in some cases, and burnt people out (especially in front line jobs).  The Legislature isn’t front line, but we had a lot of emergency response to coordinate, and it’s not over yet. I think a lot of good people – people who have served the state for decades in some cases – just need a break.

Rep. Tiff Bluemle, P-Burlington

There are a number of people who are retiring from the legislature who have given years of service to Vermont and have decided that it’s time to pass the torch.

Rep. Taylor Small, P-Winooski

I have heard a myriad of reasons as to why other legislators are stepping down: the difficulties of finding a work-life balance, the desire for more time with children and families, the financial struggle of being a part of a part-time legislature with no benefits and having to work a second job, as well as recognizing the vast amount of time a lot of my colleagues have already provided in service to our great state – with some serving over 30 years in the Vermont House. We have a great opportunity ahead of us next session with such significant turnover, and I am so grateful to have learned from these outstanding legislators before they begin their next chapter.

Yesterday, Vermont Daily Chronicle listed who’s running for re-election, who’s not, and who’s undecided/unknown. The final story in this three part series will examine who’s running for the open seats and what the results of the 2022 November general election could mean for the shape of the Legislature in years to come.

17 replies »

  1. Maybe at least some of those leaving aren’t clinically insane? As for some of those staying who are clinically insane – I’ll let the rest of you be the judge here.

  2. Rep. Brian Smith said it all….. And, if the majority stays…they will be at fault for what may come.

    • Washington county prosecutor, Rory Thibeult has been ‘stonewalling’ i.e. not doing his job and has been nasty towards myself and other friends of mine in relation to mandate-related and assault. He is planning to take AG Donovan’s position; election by selection?

    • All these folks in the legislature are at fault and don’t lose that station by leaving the legislature

  3. The founders never intended for people to serve 30 years in the house, senate or both. We are supposed to have a citizen legislature. After serving for so many years, a citizen becomes a career politician not a citizen per say. Some people need to feel the power of making decisions for others even if it takes freedom from the people like Phil Baruth above. Most are not from Vermont.
    Some will pat themselves on the back even though the state is in shambles. Some may be leaving because the people have become very vocal about the push for ideology instead of representing the people who elect them. Some may be worried about the truth of covid finally being exposed. There could be more reasons but here’s the best part, many who are leaving are responsible for the horrible condition of the state, our schools and institutions, the crime rate, the drug infestation and the destruction of our rights, freedoms and customs. This could be a new beginning if the voters actually are honest. Good by and good riddens to those who have contributed to the destruct of our once self reliant, hard working state. Those who turned it into the welfare destination for lay abouts and druggies. Perhaps an awakening is happening. I can only hope. If nothing changes for the benefit of the people, there;s no reason to stay like the many who have left already. This year, vote like your life depends on it because it does. Life without freedom is not life, we were born in America to be free. Time to clean the cob webs from out from the Golden Doom and to return it to We The People! TAKE BACK VERMONT 2022

    • Amen Dano ! I wish I’d read your post before I posted mine.

  4. Why do I hear Steve Miller singing “go on, take the money and run.”

  5. demoprogs are reading the handwriting on the wall about the upcoming general shellacking of their party, although they are quite safe in the moonbat state of Vermont,
    Some have realized that when engaged in a policy debate with no real logic or genuine moral basis on their side, there is a limit to how many times they can simply accuse their opponent of being a racist and walk away with a smug look on their face.

  6. You mean I may have to get a new Legislative Directory, and State Manual (Face Book) because there will be new faces ? Wow ! It’s about time. I was led to believe by my old fashioned history teachers, that these positions were never meant to be a “career choice” but a choice that you made to temporarily “serve the citizenry” and, not something that you can assimilate into to the point that you either think of yourself as irreplaceable, or you stand in the way of others who wish to try a different, newer, or for that matter revert to an originally intended, tried, and true course. We really need term limits, so legislators do not ever get the chance to become part of the furniture at the State House. (JMO)

    • YES INDEED, TERM LIMITS without special concessions for the rest of life for ALL government!

  7. They have lost their pandemic protection wall. May actually have to facetime the citizens.

    • You mean they may have to have committee meetings, in committee rooms, with real, live concerned constituents in the room with them ? Wow, I’m sure some of them are quaking in their Birkenstocks !

  8. no sugar coating this response…and Thank YOU Rep. Marcia Martel, R-Waterford

    “Too many legislators are there for their own agendas and nothing more. Doing good things for the state seems to have gone by the wayside.”
    Exactly how I see it as a citizen, a voter, a mother and grandmother, “truly small” business owner…

  9. Moving to Aruba……..go figure
    Rep. Hal Colston, D-Winooski

    I am retiring and moving to Aruba this fall so I am not running for reelection. I know being on Zoom for two years was very tough on a lot of legislators. Perhaps this is a factor for so many choosing not to run again.

  10. “The courage of one’s convictions” comes face to face with ‘the paycheck from the lobbyists and special interests’ and the growing awareness of the ‘pay to play’ backroom of their… convictions…and payback at the polls, were the mules kept in their stalls this election.

    We see the ‘backbone’ of Vermont for what it is now: flaccid, joyless, soulless, corrupt, self- and special-interested, and out of hiding space.

    Humpty Dumpty is about to crack wide open… they all know it.