In the month of July, the Reporter will be featuring candidates for the contested primary races for seats in the Vermont House of Representatives. The candidates were asked to provide an introductory statement about themselves, and then they were asked the same five questions; all responses were collected before any were published.
All introductions and answers are authored by the candidates themselves and are only edited to comply with Associated Press style formatting along with minor spelling and grammar corrections. Candidates were asked to keep their responses within specific word limits.
Karen Dolan is one of three Democrats running for the two seats in the Chittenden-8-2 district.
It would be a tremendous honor to serve as a representative for Essex Junction. As we all know, COVID-19 has drastically changed our lives, and it’s more important than ever that we are empathetic, collaborative, and resilient as we establish a path forward. As a life-long Vermonter, I believe in our community, and I am committed to ensuring all Vermonters thrive. This is why I’m running to represent our village.
I grew up in the Northeast Kingdom. After high school, I attended the University of Vermont where I was the first in my family to graduate from college. Since then, I’ve spent the past 20 years leading initiatives and implementing programs throughout Chittenden County non-profits.
Through my work, I’ve learned about Vermont’s food security systems, work readiness resources, gender equity programs, as well as criminal and restorative justice. I currently work at the Essex Community Justice Center.
Essex Junction has been my home for the past 14 years, and my family truly appreciates all that the Village has provided. Our community has shared so much, and I look forward to giving back in this meaningful way.
What inspired you to run for the House or to seek re-election? What was your primary motivation to represent your district in Montpelier?
My inspiration for running for the Vt. House is rooted in my commitment to community. Since my youth, I have sought ways to collaborate and connect. Growing up, I benefited from various neighbors and mentors that generously offered their time, knowledge and wisdom as I navigated challenging situations. I learned that when others give a little, the community as a whole can gain a lot.
Over the years, I have supported food drives, delivered Meals on Wheels, launched a Giving Back Club at my child’s school, and served on local boards. Consequently, I have further developed my desire to strengthen the communities I am a part of so that more people thrive. This past year, I learned more about running for office through EmergeVT and made the commitment to open the door and give back to my community in a new way.
What do you see as top priorities for the General Assembly in the next session?
1. COVID-19 Recovery and Relief Plans Prioritized on Public Safety:
The health and wellness of Vermonters is the highest priority. As decisions are made, public safety must be considered at each step.
2. Ensuring Safe, Quality, Affordable Childcare for All:
Childcare is an essential part of Vermont’s safety net. When families have access to quality and affordable childcare, our communities thrive: more folks can maintain employment; the workforce grows for employers; and children benefit from the dedicated space to learn and grow. Supporting a system that works for all parties is critical to our recovery efforts.
3. Creating Vibrant Economic Opportunities for Our Communities:
A strong infrastructure ensures our local economies have a solid foundation to weather the road ahead. Developments in technology, creative relief systems, and a supported workforce will ensure Vermont’s economy holds.
4. Equitable Access to Community Resources:
COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the fragility of our basic need systems such as health care, education, and housing. Vulnerable populations, who were already falling through the cracks, are experiencing greater challenges. Diverse voices, including those with lived experience, are needed at every decision table.
And I know there are many more priorities to address. I look forward to listening to community members to create as much positive change as possible for our community and state.
How do you believe the state should respond to revenue shortfalls in the General and Education Funds?
Revenue shortfalls should be addressed with a multi-pronged approach that involves prioritized spending, new revenue exploration, and, ideally, federal stimulus. The response must also involve significant community input as we work to better understand our situation.
COVID-19 spotlights essential sectors such as health care, education, childcare, and general utilities. These areas must be prioritized in budget spending along with support for our small business community which is the backbone to so many initiatives across our state.
Additionally, our current situation has identified opportunities for cost-savings through our efforts to reduce the number of people in our prisons, change policing strategies, and shift to online service delivery systems.
New revenue sources such as a regulated cannabis market or an incremental progressive tax shift could be explored to counter some of the losses. And even with these strategies, we will need significant stimulus at the federal level -- which I am committed to advocating for as needed.
What do you see as being the most important issues facing Essex, and how would you use your seat to deal with those?
COVID19 recovery is the primary issue at this time. We need to ensure that our community remains healthy, safe, and equipped to weather the road ahead. I am committed to supporting policies that focus on ensuring all within our Village thrive during these challenging times. My main approach for action will be to listen to community members about their needs, collaborate with stakeholders, support sustainable solutions and effectively share resources with our Village residents.
What support, if any, do you plan to give to the Vermont State Colleges System?
I am in full support of strengthening the Vermont State Colleges System. As a person that grew up in Vermont and relied on an in-state university for my degree, I understand the investment that is needed. We must have affordable, accessible, and local post-secondary education offerings across our state. Only then will we be able to ensure young residents have a clear path forward in Vermont. I commit to bringing stakeholders together to identify solutions that prioritize a robust State Colleges System.
Learn more about Karen Dolan at dolanforvthouse.com.