MONKTON — What a difference two years can make in politics.
In 2012, incumbent Reps. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, and Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, were unopposed in their successful runs for new two-year terms representing the Addison-4 House district.
With the 2014 legislative session barely half over, two Republican candidates have already confirmed their plans to oppose Sharpe and Fisher in the two-seat district that includes Bristol, Starksboro, Lincoln and Monkton.
Earlier this winter, Bristol’s Fred Baser announced he would challenged the incumbents, and the Independent interviewed him about his decision to run.
On Monday, Monkton’s Valerie Mullin spoke with the Addison Independent about her budding campaign in Addison-4.
Mullin, 55, is a 6th-generation Vermonter and member of the Mount Abraham Union High School class of 1977. She was raised in Addison County and on various military bases throughout the country, a trend that continued post-graduation. She and her then-husband and their two sons lived for several years at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. She returned to the five-town area — specifically, New Haven — when she was in her late 20s.
Her first marriage later dissolved, leaving her with the responsibility of being a primary breadwinner.
“I’ve worked second- and third-shift factory jobs, so I certainly do know what hard work is and what it’s like to struggle financially, alone with three children,” Mullin said.
But when times were looking particularly tough, Mullin received what she called “a small inheritance” that allowed her and her mom to establish “Needleworks and Crafts,” a craft supply store in Charlotte.
She expanded the enterprise to locations in downtown Burlington and Ticonderoga, N.Y. They also owned a story where the Kinney Drugs store now does business in Vergennes.
She said her life took another step forward 17 years ago when she married her current husband, Rob Mullin, a professional firefighter and former National Guard member. They soon gave birth to a son, prompting Valerie Mullin to divest of her business interests in order to become a stay-at-home mom.
“I didn’t want the regrets with this special gift that I had with my other two sons that life was going by so fast that I felt I was missing the little things that add up to the big things in a baby’s life,” Mullin said.
While looking after her son, who is now a freshman at Mount Abraham, Mullin began a career teaching skincare techniques as a means of becoming more socially involved and adding to the household income. She also mentors around 70 women nationally on the subject of entrepreneurship and financial independence.
“(It) gives me satisfaction knowing I can assist their financial goals so maybe they don’t have to struggle financially like I used to,” Mullin said.
It was while volunteering with former Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010 and listening to a variety of news programs that Mullin developed an interest in politics.
Mullin decided to run for an Addison-4 seat in an effort to make a difference for her fellow Addison-4 residents, as well as to instill some core values, such as public service, in her youngest son.
“I saw in the last election that my opponents were running unopposed, and I thought someone should do something,” Mullin said.
On the campaign trail, she is emphasizing a need to “balance the state budget,” reform the state’s property tax system, and expand private insurance options for Vermonters instead of proceeding on a path toward a single-payer health care system.
“We can’t compete with Montpelier’s stroke of the pen,” Mullin said, in describing the recent trend in tax increases.
She noted the Shumlin administration has already announced a 7-cent increase in the statewide education property tax and that a single-payer health care system will require other tax hikes, including potentially on payrolls.
“I can’t understand how Vermonters are being asked to pay for something when we don’t have a plan to pay for it, or know how much it’s going to cost,” she said of the single-payer system.
“We cannot afford any more (money) taken from us,” Mullin said. “Our state cannot afford to stay on this course.”
Mullin is also concerned about the numbers of young Vermonters leaving the Green Mountain State following graduation to pursue careers in states with more job opportunities. Mullin noted recently announced job losses at IBM, Vermont Yankee and Plasan Carbon Composites. She said one of her older sons is currently under-employed, while another left the state to find employment.
Mullin also pledged to be an independent voice.
“I don’t plan on voting along party lines,” she said.
Mullin will be looking to her fellow Addison-4 district residents to pass along their top concerns.
“I hope they ask me a lot of questions and get to know me,” she said. “This campaign is not about me. This is about the people of these four towns in this state who are working hard at just trying to enjoy life and get by financially. I’d like to think I offer a different path, one of financial responsibility.”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.