Deeper Dig: Youth Caucus by VTDigger

Check out this great podcast from 2019 on how the younger Vermont State Representatives.

(Above is one of my favorite photos of Rep. Lucy Rogers and myself looking at photos from the day at the end of the session.)

The Deeper Dig is a weekly podcast from the VTDigger newsroom. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

When Rep. Becca White, D-Hartford, heard Gov. Phil Scott this week pitch a strategy to attract millennial homebuyers to Vermont, she looked around at the audience in the House chamber and noticed a disparity.

“There’s a handful of us who actually sit in the chairs for the House or the Senate who fit the demographic he’s trying to reach.”

White, who is 24, says it’s necessary to have young people at the table if state government wants to address Vermont’s demographic decline. The new House roster takes a step in that direction: White is one of four legislators under the age of 25 who were sworn in this week.

Rep. Felisha Leffler, R-Enosburg, says her experience growing up in Vermont more recently makes her well-suited for current policy discussions. “The Vermont I grew up in is very much the same Vermont that we’re dealing with,” she says.

Leffler says she understands 20-somethings who leave the state for better work opportunities: until last year, she was one. Now back in her hometown, she faces the same affordability issues as many other young Vermonters: “I have to pay rent and bills and utilities, and I’m just getting started on my student loans.”

Rep. Lucy Rogers, whose campaign got national attention for a bipartisan musical performance at a debate last year, says older legislators discussing education issues are more likely to make faulty assumptions about students’ needs.

“I’ve so recently gone through the public education system in Vermont,” Rogers says. “I think it’s really different to have a from-the-inside look on public education, versus from the outside looking in.”

Rep. Patrick Seymour, R-Sutton, works on his family’s dairy farm. Seymour considers himself a fiscal conservative, and says he wants older generations to understand that young people have a diversity of political opinions. “They’re not all this progressive vision you see on TV,” he says.

“There are many young people who are libertarian. Many of them are Progressive, many of them are Republicans, Democrat,” Seymour says. “They’re all manner of folk. And the more of them there are, the more representative of the country in general.”

The four freshmen join two other young representatives, both from Randolph, who are starting their second terms: Ben Jickling, 24, and Jay Hooper, 25. Jickling is an Independent; Hooper is a Democrat.

Jickling says earning the respect of older lawmakers during his first term wasn’t as hard as he expected. “Obviously there’s the initial visceral thing: ‘A lot of these people are my grandparents’ age.’” He spent his first term on detailed policy work in order to show his commitment.

“I’ve found that if you prove yourself as a serious legislator, you are regarded as a serious legislator,” Jickling says. “But I think it probably is harder than it would be if I was 40.”

Read full transcript

Subscribe to The Deeper Dig on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Music by Blue Dot Sessions and Joe Bagale.

This post was corrected to reflect Rep. Ben Jickling’s party affiliation as an Independent.


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