Thursday May 17, 2018
Representative Helen Head has announced that she will not seek reelection and plans to retire at the end of her term. She has represented the residents of Chittenden 7-3, South Burlington, since January 2003.
“This has been one of the greatest honors of my life and I’ll always treasure the experience,” said Representative Head, adding, “It’s sad to think of saying goodbye to good friends, and to the amazing staff in my committee and legislative counsel.”
Since 2007, Head has been chair of the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs. Noting that the diversity of issues the committee handles has been engaging and meaningful to her, she says, “General has been a terrific place to focus on workplace, housing, veterans, and alcohol issues. Being a committee chair is a ton of work, especially during the legislative session, but it has allowed me to lead some change efforts. Strengthening Vermont’s housing and conservation work, increasing wages for Vermont workers, building on equal pay and family friendly workplace policies, awarding scholarships and low interest loans to our National Guard members, and fostering the growth of our beer, wine, and spirit industries – this is all vital work that I’ve had the great privilege to lead.”
Head’s commitment towards affordable housing over the years has been notable. She describes her initiative in this regard as one of her highest priorities while in office, noting, “Affordable housing creation and preservation through responsible, creative financing … are achievable with thoughtful planning and continued reliance on environmental conservation and protection.” In 2016, Head received the Legislative Housing Hero award by the Vermont Statewide Housing Conference.
Remarking on steps taken to create and maintain affordable housing, Head says, “The work we did after Tropical Storm Irene transformed fair housing policy, especially for thousands of mobile home park residents around the state. With passage of the rental housing safety bill this year, we are finally moving toward meaningful enforcement of the statewide rental housing safety code.”
Representative Head was honored with the Legislator of the Year Award by the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility in December 2016 for her work and leadership in helping pass key employment bills, including Paid Leave and Ban the Box. “Passing paid sick days in 2016 was a real accomplishment that took a decade to achieve,” notes Head, adding, “With this bill, we honored Vermont workers who need paid time off from work to care for themselves and sick family members, while promoting healthy workplaces.”
Head describes how her legislative efforts have impacted her community at home, “South Burlington residents were helped by each budget passed over the last 16 years. Education, transportation, and other infrastructure improvements are always at the top of the list. We worked hard to pass the TIF bill that paved the way for City Center’s creation. Last year, the single largest infusion of bond money, $37 million, for housing development passed, making possible new construction all over the state.” Remembering last November when Allard Square broke ground as the first building in City Center, she says, “Watching that shovel go in the ground was a proud moment for South Burlington and for me personally.”
Head is currently in the last days of the 2018 Legislative session. “There are still a number of bills in play. The end of session marks the close of the busiest part of the legislative year, but there are wrap up meetings and events that will happen over the next few months.”
Head’s term as representative will officially end when, after the November vote, the newly elected representative for 7-3 takes his or her place at the Statehouse the first Wednesday of the new year. After retiring, Head reports she will travel to visit friends and family, including spending more time with her 95-year-old mother. Closer to home, she looks forward to tending her garden and catching up on some volunteer projects, something that is not new to her. Previous volunteer efforts included work with Hospice of the Champlain Valley, the Dismas House, and co-coordinating Small Potatoes, an interfaith program that feeds hungry Vermonters on Saturday mornings in Burlington. Beyond that, she says, “I’m not sure what all of the future holds, but I’m excited for the chance to find out.”
A resident of South Burlington for over 25 years, Head recalls the first day she stepped into the role of representative. “I was first elected in November 2002 with the belief that good, responsible government can come from the work of hard working citizens. I began serving on the first Wednesday of January in 2003. Working in this beautiful, historical museum of a Statehouse was awe inspiring from day one. I remember feeling the weight of my responsibilities and the joy of getting to know my colleagues. I borrowed someone’s reading glasses to read the seating chart on the floor of the House and chose seat 30.” She thoughtfully adds, “Almost 16 years later, I’ve spent many hours listening, talking, and voting from seat 30, participating in countless debates, big and small. I still believe that good responsive government is possible, even if it often takes longer to get it done than I ever imagined. And I still get goosebumps coming into the Statehouse.”
SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, The Other Paper