After 16 years of service in the local non-profit sector here in Vermont, I ran for State Representative 8 years ago. My goal was to help strengthen Vermont's educational system and economy by using the skills I gained during 18 years of service in the non-profit sector here in Vermont, as well as the experience I gained working for 14 years in the private sector in New York City.
Here in Vermont over the past 25 years I have served as both a board and staff member for non-profit organizations, including the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Strolling of the Heifers, Youth Services and World Learning. As a marketing communications consultant, I have worked for state and local organizations such as the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, Healthcare & Rehabilitation Services, Student Conservation Association, Vermont Land Trust and World Learning, among others.
COMMITTED TO CREATING A BETTER WORLD
I have been committed to changing the world ever since I was a young girl. During the summers I spent on my father's farm in Oakton, Virginia, I watched the Watergate hearings non-stop. I also watched TV shows like "Biography” about world events and the leaders who changed history. During those long, hot summers, I read books, rode horses and visted the museums and state buildings in Washington, D.C. Every Sunday morning my father, step-mother Lynda and my three siblings and I went for trail rides through the woods and across the farmland in then bucolic Northern Virginia. Sadly, we saw the beautiful forests and fields we rode across get gobbled up by development. Our pond filled up with silt and snapping turtles who ate our ducks as Reston,Virginia and Dulles Airport rose from the ashes of what once was green forests and fertile farm land. To this day that sad memory animates my commitment to smart growth, planned development and combatting climate change.
Some of my early inspirations for public service were my Irish Catholic mother, Marie, who was a nurse, and my Presbyterian father, Joseph. My father was a poor, first- generation Scottish American and went to Cornell on the G.I. Bill. He became a veterinarian. When my mother and father divorced when I was 7 years old, my mother moved with me and my siblings to Mamaroneck, New York, where she grew up.
Several years thereafter, my father married my step-mother, Lynda Bowman. Lynda, her four brothers and the many Washington luminaries I met as a young girl helped inspire my political consciousness about the importance of building a more just and peaceful world. That was the late 1960's and there was always a lot of lively conversation at the dinner table at my father’s farm where we ate fresh vegetables from his enormous garden on the back porch under the stars. The discussions focused on the Vietnam war, politics, and the cultural revolution taking place in America before our eyes.
One of Lynda's brothers was drafted and became a Marine. He fought as a young man in the jungles of Vietnam. He returned to the States like so many veterans with the mental scars of what became an exceedingly unpopular war. He and one of his brothers who was a teacher captivated me and my siblings with stories about the anti-war protest marches they took part in Washington, D.C. Once the war ended, they helped start homeless shelters all over Washington, D.C., so veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental and physical health challenges wouldn't end up forgotten on the harsh city streets without a roof over their heads.
Although I worked throughout high school and college to pay for my post-secondary education, I graduated from college with honors. I was a dual major and received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Spanish. In addition to speaking Spanish, which I learned while living in Spain during my junior year of college abroad, I learned to speak French at the Alliance Francaise while working in New York City.
BACKGROUND ON ME AND MY FAMILY
After college I went to New York City where I fulfilled my dream of pursuing a career in communications. My first job was as the Associate Editor of the graphic design magazine Graphic Design: USA. I loved working with creative people, covering press conferences, writing stories and laying out the magazine. After 4 years in that field, I decided to leave the "velvet ghetto," the term used to describe the poorly paid, predominantly female publishing field where women worked for low wages. I took time off and went to South America to visit a girlfriend from Uruguay I had met while living in Madrid, Spain during my junior year abroad. During the two months I stayed there, I also visited Argentina and Brazil.
When I returned from Latin America, I secured a better paid post in public relations and marketing at Peterson & Blyth Associates, a 50-person brand and corporate identity firm, where I later became a partner. Ten years later, my husband and I had our first child, Ian Stuart Mabie. Once we had our second child, Lauren Stuart Mabie, my husband, who worked at several law firms in Manhattan (the last one was where Mayor Edward Koch worked), and I decided to leave the big city and move to the country. We choose Vermont because we love nature and outdoor sports and had enjoyed visting the Green Mountain State for years. We recognized Brattleboro as a vibrant agricultural and arts community that would be a good place to raise our 3-year old son and 1-year-old daughter. We wanted to settle down in a town where our children would receive a good education and enjoy a rural upbringing in a place with a sense of community.
Our son Ian attended Northeastern University in Boston where he majored in Political Science. After internships working at a major law firm, in state government and at a small research marketing firm, Ian joined Uber. He was one of their earliest employees in Boston. During his first year at the company, he helped launch Uber offices all over the world. During his second year, the company asked him to join them at their headquarters in San Francisco.
Our daughter Lauren attended American University in Washington, D.C. where she majored in International Relations and was a member of the Varsity Dance Team. During her sophmore year, she joined the U.S. Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). During her junior year, she was selected to participate in the Army's Airborne program. (Only 2 percent of our nation's military service members participate in the program.) One of my proudest moments as her mother was when I pinned Lauren's wings on her uniform at the ceremony celebrating each soldier's accomplishment of parachuting out of cargo planes 5 times over the course of two days.
STRENGTHENING VERMONT’S EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SYSTEMS
During my 4 years of service on the House Education Committee, we passed many ground-breaking pieces of legislation, including: Universal Pre-K; Free Breakfast and Lunch Program; Flexible Pathways Initiative; Dual Enrollment and Early College; Anti Bullying Initiative; Concussion Protocols; and State Workforce Development Board Public Engagement Process.
ENHANCIING VERMONT’S ECONOMY
As a member of the House Commerce Committee for four years, my goal was to champion initiatives that grow jobs, generate revenue and employ Vermonters. Such initiatives are the best way to make it possible for everyone to earn a livable wage and put a house over their families’ heads, and food on the table. Creating jobs, giving Vermonters marketable job skills and generating more revenue will help create a brighter future for all Vermonters.
During the last biennium, I helped write and pass a law that appropriated $50,000 to the Bennington County Regional Commission. Those funds enabled that county to partner with Windham County on a federally recognized Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Southern Vermont. The CEDS, which the Brattleboro Development Cooperation and Bennington Regional Development Corporation continue to collaborate on, will give the two counties the critical mass to jointly apply for federal Economic Development Authority programs. The objective: to enable the two counties to jointly draw down federal money for key economic development projects. The CEDS will enable the two counties to jointly: establish an integrated investment strategy for retaining and recruiting businesses to southern Vermont; implement a joint recruitment and marketing program; and create a structure for a public-private partnership in order to aggregate capital and coordinate investment in the region’s small- and medium-size businesses.
FIRST-TIME HOME OWNERS’ LOAN, BLOCKCHAIN AND CYBERSECURITY LEGISLATION
To help first-time home buyers address one of the biggest challenges young people, in particular, face — coming up with a down payment — House Commerce passed a First-Time Home Owners Loan Program 4 years ago. This $5,000 loan, issued by the Vermont Housing and Finance Agency, provides a $5,000 loan that gets repaid when the buyer sells the home.
House Commerce also passed several bills that put Vermont on the map as a leader in innovation. One created two new corporate structures: Personal Information Protection Companies (PIPC) and Blockchain Based LLCs, which position Vermont as a haven for software companies using Blockchain technology. Blockchain uses a cryptographically secure global system similar to the Internet to permit the exchange of information and assets in a cyber secure manner. Major banks, Fortune 500 companies, and governments around the world are exploring the uses of Blockchain. The bill creates corporate structures favorable to companies that use this technology to avoid the fast growing disruption caused by cyber thieves and hackers.
NAMED A CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS CHAMPION BY VBSR
I was an active member of the House’s Climate Solutions Caucus, which meets every week during the legislative session. In my quest to mitigate climate change, I spearheaded several highly successful initiatives, including the Catalysts of a Climate Change Economy held at the University of Vermont in Burlington in the fall of 2017. The idea for the summit was my brain-child; the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) brought the idea to fruition. The three-day national innovation summit last fall attracted 500 investors and entrepreneurs from across the nation to the “Queen City.”
I generated the idea for the summit at one of the VCRD’s Climate Economy Summits several years ago as a way to position Vermont as a leading renewable energy job creator. Our state generated 14,000 renewable energy jobs in 2014 — or more jobs per capita than any other state in the nation. I knew such a conference would position Vermont more strongly as a desirable green, clean place to work, recreate and live. I also saw it as a means to attract the kinds of renewable energy companies and entrepreneurs we want to live or move here and establish businesses.
My commitment to combatting climate change garnered me an award from Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility as a Climate Solutions Champion.
NURTURING THE ARTS AND THE CREATIVE ECONOMY
Another bill I worked on and presented on the House floor will be beneficial for our area’s thriving arts sector. It directs the Vermont Arts Council to lead an effort, in collaboration with statewide partners, to establish the Vermont Creative Network. The network functions as a communications, advocacy and capacity building entity that strengthens Vermont’s creative sector, enhances Vermont’s quality of life and increases our state’s vitality. Vermont’s highly successful Farm-to-Plate Program is the model for the network. Since its establishment in 2009, that program has increased sales of Vermont’s farm products by 32% and increased employment in that sector by 11%.
An analysis conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2014 showed over $304 million in direct spending in Vermont by individuals and businesses in the creative sector in 2012 that leveraged an additional $247 million in economic output for businesses throughout Vermont. The study also found that 4,300 Vermonters are employed in the creative sector and another 3,000 are employed in jobs related to the sector. The total amount of compensation (including benefits) generated by Vermont’s creative sector was over $158 million and $14.7 million in state and local taxes in 2012.
The network has created a strategic plan that includes steps to inventory and analyze data on the sector, methods to strengthen links within it, and current and potential markets for the creative sector to promote, distribute and sell its products. The network submitted a report to the Governor and the General Assembly with recommendations for future creative network activity, which are currently being implemented.
Gun Sense Vermont Recognized My Role In Sensible Gun Laws' Passage
In response to the ongoing mass shootings that plague our nation, after several years of inaction, we passed several common sense gun laws in 2018. One of the bills expands background check requirements to unlicensed (or private) firearm sales. A second law empowers a State’s Attorney or the Attorney General’s office to petition a court to issue an order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they pose a danger to themselves or others. A third law provides protection to victims of domestic assault by permitting, in specified circumstances, a law enforcement officer to remove a firearm from the scene if it's necessary to protect the victim, the officer or another person. I received a Certificate of Appreciation from Gun Sense Vermont for my staunch support of this legislation.
PROTECTING VOTERS’ AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Following President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity's demand that the state release sensitive voter information, Secretary of State Jim Condos requested the legislature write a law that would make it illegal for his office to release any such data to any government agency. This bill protects all information not listed on Vermont’s publicly available voter list.
We also passed an excellent bill that extends pre-existing legal protections against workplace harassment to independent contractors, volunteers, freelancers, and interns. The bill makes it illegal for employers to force employees to sign away the right to file sexual harassment lawsuits in pre-employment contracts. This bill is near and dear to me. Our daughter Lauren was sexually assaulted in Washington, D.C., while she was a student at American University. Sexual misconduct has been pervasive for far too long here in America and worldwide.
HELP FOR LOW-INCOME VERMONTERS AND NATIONAL GUARD MEMBERS
As part of a tax bill we passed a provision that will progressively phase out the tax on Social Security benefits over the next 3 years for individuals making $45,000 or less and for couples making $60,000 or less. This is great news for low-income Vermonters.
To help Vermonters afford medications vital to their well-being, we passed a law that directs Vermont’s Agency of Human Services (AHS) to work with a Canadian wholesaler to identify the drugs Vermonters spend the most money on. AHS would then purchase such drugs on the Canadian market where profits are capped by the federal government. Vermont pharmacies that choose to participate in the program would be able to supply such drugs at a lower cost. The federal government must grant permission before medications start crossing the border; if the bill passes federal muster it will save Vermonters millions of dollars.
In an ongoing quest to provide more affordable higher education for all Vermonters, we passed a bill that provides National Guard members with free tuition at our state colleges as well as the University of Vermont. Tuition assistance for Vermont’s National Guard members is long overdue. Our goal is to encourage and prepare these service women and men for the nearly 400 of 3,500 positions currently available in the Vermont National Guard.