I have been reflecting on my experience in the legislature and the campaign last fall, and realize that I didn’t use this messaging as I should have, the least of which should have been to write to thank those of you who supported me in my work. Perhaps more letters during the campaign would also have been helpful, but the campaign pace along with legislative work is intense! After the election, I went through a quiet retreat mode through the holidays, feeling the loss of something in which I had invested much of my soul.
The work of representing four diverse towns was, and probably always will be, challenging. The towns of Chittenden and Mendon share a school, bringing some commonality to their concerns, while they remain uniquely different. Killington is most concerned about its identity as a resort town, its financial resiliency, and its students’ opportunities. And Bridgewater has wrestled over the decision to close its beloved community school, and maintain its sense of community.
Several towns feel they have reached their limit with property tax increases, and all struggle with the changed school demographics of fewer students. Three Rutland County towns, and one Windsor County town have diverse ideas about what our state needs for policy change.
In my first campaign, I campaigned (as my most recent opponent did) on the concept that increased business and jobs will solve many of our challenges. I still believe this, but I am reluctant to see the state change its progressive policies regarding development to achieve this. Chittenden County thrives under the same rules as we do, and this may reflect the trend of young people enjoying living in more active urban areas, using more alternative transportation, and enjoying an energetic creative culture.
I do think a more expeditious Act 250 process (perhaps less dependent on volunteer community service) would be helpful, but bottom line, most permits are successfully issued. Smart growth policies that try to prevent strip growth represent a strong forward-looking approach to managing sprawl and preserving the uniqueness that is Vermont. I believe most individuals accept some absences (big box shopping, endless roadside commerce, and the like) because they love the flavor of small town Vermont. Balance is delicate, and I do not believe in erasing smart policy to welcome more business. Rutland County needs to address some of its own economic challenges by actively enticing compatible small industries that would feel well-placed in a transportation- challenged city, while local representatives advocate for improvements that will facilitate these efforts.
The legislature has a tough task in trying to balance the budget shortfall this year. I think it should be looking to preserve expenses that work to reduce others: drug treatment that reduces incarceration, child services that save lives and invest in productive citizens, and more, while universally trimming less impactful program costs. But none of these decisions is simple. I would like to see dispatcher jobs stay in our county, but technology has made them less necessary.
I also believe governments should not be as fiscally conservative as we might best be with our personal finances. Austerity can work against the desire for healthy economic growth, as has been seen in Europe, while stretching investments work as a development catalyst. I can tell you that I do not miss the stress of budget analysis (while missing the opportunity for input) and enjoy the rewards of retirement for now.
I sincerely appreciate the support that came my way. I am engaged in the rewarding work of mentoring—being a mentor to a 14 year old (our fifth year), directing a school-based program, and participating as a board member for both Rutland County’s Mentor Connector, and Mobius, the statewide mentoring partnership. I have also joined the folks of Evolve Rutland, a women’s professional development group. I have not closed the door on a 2016 run, and will give it strong consideration when the time comes.
Wishing everyone an eventual thaw and cheerful burst into springtime, I wish you the best.
Gallivan is a former state representative for Mendon, Chittenden, Bridgewater and Killington.