Wolcott representative moves on after 12 years
by Andrew Martin
Another one of Lamoille County’s senior legislators is getting done. Representative Linda Martin, D-Wolcott, will not seek reelection this fall after 12 years serving in the Vermont House.
Martin is the second local lawmaker to step down after the last legislative session. Fellow Democrat and House Speaker Shap Smith of Morristown recently announced he is running for lieutenant governor.
At this point, Martin said she has no plans to seek any other state office.
“There were a lot of little reasons behind the decision,” Mar-tin said.
One of the most compelling? A desire to see and spend more time with her nine grandchildren. She said during the session she must put her family on the back burner as she spends nearly all her time in Montpelier.
“It’s such a huge commitment. You have to give up so much time with your family and friends,” she said.
Martin is also Wolcott’s town clerk, a position she has held since 1986. Trying to be both a legislator and town employee has become increasingly more difficult as the responsibilities of her day job have grown.
Martin was first elected to the House in 2004. She represented Wolcott and Hyde Park for six years until redistricting in 2010 added Johnson and Belvidere to her district. She and Mark Woodward, D-Johnson, have represented the Lamoille-2 district together since then.
“It’s been quite a learning experience,” Martin said. The ability to compromise and work with people who have different beliefs is one of the most important things she has learned.
“Just learning how to compromise and finding something that works for both sides is really important. It doesn’t always happen, but it feels really good when it does,” she said.
While the session does take her away from her actual family, her time as a legislator has also created a whole new family for Martin.
“I’ve really gotten to think of my constituents as another family. I hear their stories and share their memories,” she said.
Martin may not be running again this year, but she isn’t ruling out a return to Montpelier down the road.
“I could go back at some point, but right now it feels like I need to be here and be part of this community,” she said.
Highlights of a career
Martin has seen dozens of key pieces of legislation come before the legislature over the last decade, but passing the Marriage Equality Act in 2009 is the one that stands out the most.
“I had goose bumps that day,” Martin said. “I really felt passing it was the right thing to do. You don’t always feel that way about some legislation, but I never wavered on that one.”
Martin is also proud of a pair of voter registration acts that were passed during her time in the Legislature. In 2015 the same-day voter registration bill that Martin helped shepherd through was signed into law — it will take effect in 2017. The law allows a person to vote the same day they register; now you have to register at least a week in advance to vote in Vermont elections.
“I’m close to that subject as a town clerk,” Martin said. “I see how confused people can be on the topics of when, where and how to vote.”
Martin is also pleased that a second law allowing Vermonters to register to vote when they renew their drivers license, the “motor voter” bill, was also signed into law this year and will make it even easier for Vermonters to do their civic duty.
Martin also felt some other decisions by the Legislature this year are important. Those include an increase in the funding for Vermont’s mental health organizations, parent centers, and ambulance squads. She’s also proud of the bill she helped sponsor allowing small Vermont towns to get more help from regional planning commissions.
“Small towns like Wolcott, ones that don’t have town administrators or managers, need help from the regional planning commissions with a lot of things, like grant writing and record keeping,” she said.
One piece of legislation Martin still isn’t happy with is Act 46, the law that encourages school districts to merge into larger entities with at least 900 students.
Wolcott still offers school choice, but as part of an Act 46 merger districts are supposed to give up choice. Despite work by Martin, Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, and others, no changes to how Act 46 addresses school choice have been made yet.
Martin is unsure who will be running for her seat now that she has stepped down. She believes there is a Democrat in Wolcott who will be running, but that individual was not available at press time to confirm.
Woodward still has not confirmed his own plans to run again.
Frederika “Riki” French of Hyde Park has already declared as a Republican candidate for the two-member district.
All major-party candidates must turn in petitions by Thursday, May 26 in order to be placed on the August primary ballot.