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Sen. Hardy steps into new role at Statehouse

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Posted on January 14, 2019 |
By Sarah Asch



statehouse IMG_1657.jpg
VERMONT PUBLIC RADIO’S Jane Lindholm speaks with Sen. Ruth Hardy about the East Middlebury Democrat’s first day in office, while Hardy’s husband, Jason Mittell, and children Anya and Walter look on. In the interview, Hardy said she was inspired to run because she wanted to be a role model, especially for her two daughters. Independent photo/Sarah Asch

MONTPELIER — While many Vermont state senators began last Wednesday in their cars, battling a snowstorm on the way from their districts, East Middlebury Democrat Ruth Hardy strapped snow spikes onto her shoes and walked to the Statehouse.

Hardy, Addison County’s newest state senator, stayed the night before her swearing-in at her newly rented room in Montpelier and reported early for her first day on the job.

Hardy was elected Nov. 6 in a landslide victory alongside fellow Democrat and incumbent Sen. Christopher Bray. She said many of her policy priorities remain the same as they were in November. These include enacting a $15-per-hour minimum wage and paid family leave, expanding access to health care, and improving public education. Hardy, who on Thursday was appointed to Senate Education Committee, said she is particularly excited to be part of the conversation about schools.

Hardy also mentioned another, newer legislative priority: gun control. This is especially important to her after the December shooting threat at Middlebury Union Middle School in her hometown. 

“After several incidents in the state, I am hoping to work with colleagues on passing further gun violence prevention laws,” she said.

On Hardy’s first day at the Statehouse she was joined by husband Jason Mittell and two of their children, MUHS freshman Anya and MUMS seventh-grader Walter, who watched her take the oath of office. The hallways of the capitol were packed with Vermont senators and members of the state House of Representatives, who milled around discussing the snow outside and their preferred committee assignments.

SEN. RUTH HARDY with her son, Walter, daughter Anya and husband, Jason Mittell.

Independent photo/Sarah Asch

The swearing-in ceremony started an hour late to accommodate senators delayed by the snow. Hardy settled her children in their seats and made her rounds, smiling and hugging many of her colleagues. At one point, Sen. Alison Clarkson, a second-term Democrat from Woodstock, gave Hardy’s son a peek inside her desk, where she keeps a stash of candy alongside her papers.

The ceremony began with pomp and circumstance and ended with the business of the day. After a brief prayer and the roll call, the 30 senators rose to take the oath of office, swearing to serve the state of Vermont and uphold its constitution. Senators then turned to their agenda, including re-electing Tim Ashe, D-Burlington, as president pro tempore. Ashe gave a speech welcoming Hardy and other new senators, and discussing wealth inequality in the state.

SENS. RUTH HARDY of East Middlebury, fourth from left, and fellow Democrat Christopher Bray of New Haven, to her left, take the oath of office in the Vermont Senate chamber at the Statehouse in Montpelier this past Wednesday. Hardy, a newcomer, and Bray, beginning his fourth term, represent Addison County, Huntington and Buel’s Gore.

Independent photo/Sarah Asch

After the Senate adjourned, and after Hardy received many congratulations from family and friends, she made her way to the cafeteria for lunch. The meal was followed by a Statehouse tour. Hardy led her husband and kids around the building, starting with the governor’s office, where they crossed paths with Sen. Jeanette White, D-Putney.

“Are you going to teach us all how to use social media next Thursday night?” White asked Hardy, who effectively used Twitter and other social media in her campaign. Hardy promised that she would.

At 1:30 p.m., Hardy’s family said their goodbyes and the new senator made her way to the Senate Democratic Caucus, where 24 of the 30 state senators gathered to discuss their legislative priorities.

Among other issues, they discussed their plan to reintroduce bills on paid family leave and the $15 minimum wage, both of which Gov. Phil Scott vetoed at the end of the last legislative session. Hardy explained that with the Democrats’ increased majority in both Vermont’s House of Representatives and Senate, they will most likely be able to override future vetoes if necessary.

IN ONE OF many photo ops at the Statehouse this past Wednesday, Ed Sayre uses two phones to snap photos of Sen. Ruth Hardy, center, with friends Joanna Colwell, left, and Kate Lucier in the Cedar Creek Room. Hardy’s son, Walter, keeps an eye on the action over Sayre’s shoulder

Independent photo/Sarah Asch

However, Hardy also expressed a sentiment similar to Gov. Scott’s call for bipartisan cooperation in his inaugural address the next day. She hopes that legislators can work with the governor to make sure he supports the bills they introduce and will sign them without a veto. As she moves forward in this new role, she said her main goal is to work on legislation to make it as strong as it can be.

“What I’m really interested in doing is working with my colleagues on any kind of legislation to make sure it’s really solid,” she said. “I am not really looking to get into political fights, I’m looking to make good policy in a lot of different areas, but especially in areas that will help our families.”

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