By JOHN FLOWERS
VERGENNES — The race for a Vermont House seat in the Addison-3 district race now includes the previous, as well as the current, mayor of the city of Vergennes.
Republican Kitty Oxholm, who served as the Little City’s mayor for four years until March 2005, confirmed on Thursday that she will run for one of two House seats representing the Addison-3 communities of Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Addison and Waltham.
Oxholm enters a race that already includes the current mayor of Vergennes, Progressive April Jin; incumbent Rep. Greg Clark, R-Vergennes; Ferrisburgh Democrat Liz Markowski; and Vergennes Democrat Diane Lanpher.
Oxholm has had a long interest in serving in the House. When longtime incumbent Rep. Connie Houston, R-Ferrisburgh, announced she would not seek re-election this year, Oxholm decided to throw her hat into the ring.
“Connie is going to be a tough act to follow,” Oxholm said. “I won’t pretend to fill her shoes.”
Still, Oxholm believes her many years of experience as a city official, civic volunteer and special education administrator have given her the right tools to be a good representative.
Her résumé includes seven years on the Vergennes City Council. She currently serves as president of the Bixby Memorial Free Library board; is a board member of People of Addison County Together (PACT); is part of the Northlands Job Corps Community Relations Council; is a member of the Vergennes Community Forum; is a volunteer with the Counseling Service of Addison County; and is active with the Vergennes Lions Club.
“I’d like to think I’m a good listener, and want to hear all sides of an issue before making a decision,” Oxholm said of her leadership style.
She hopes to use those leadership skills in Montpelier to work on such issues as health care reform, improving public education and creating better economic conditions for the state’s farmers.
Oxholm said she followed, with interest, the 2006 Legislature’s work on Catamount Health, a new law that will extend basic health benefits to an estimated 25,000 uninsured Vermonters. The plan calls benefits recipients, as well as some employers, to share in the costs of Catamount Health.
While Oxholm believes in the need for a program like Catamount Health, she maintains it will be essential for the Legislature to make sure the program does not become a financial burden for the state.
“I think it will be important for the Legislature to review the Catamount Health plan and make sure it’s sustainable and doesn’t jeopardize Medicaid,” Oxholm said.
Having been a special education instructor and administrator for the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union for the past 32 years, Oxholm has learned a lot about how Vermont’s schools function and how they could be made more efficient. She is particularly intrigued with a proposal by Vermont Education Commissioner Richard Cate to consolidate and reduce the number of supervisory unions in the state.
Oxholm believes Cate’s proposal has merit.
“It will be really important for the Legislature to watch (the proposal), to see if education services can be provided in a more efficient way with some governance changes,” Oxholm said.
She added the Vermont House and Senate will need to do more to help the state’s farmers, who are currently struggling to make ends meet due to shrinking milk prices coupled with skyrocketing fuel costs.
“The current situation farmers find themselves in underscores the fragility of their situation,” Oxholm said. “We need to keep (farmers) in focus in order to maintain farming as an important industry and way of life.”
Oxholm said she will spend the coming months speaking with constituents and studying up on more issues that affect her district.
“There’s always something new and different coming at you,” Oxholm said. “I don’t have a one-item agenda.”