FERRISBURGH — Vermont’s political landscape has changed quite a bit since Ferrisburgh Democrat Arabella Holzapfel ran for the Vermont House back in 2000.
That was a year during which the GOP claimed a decisive majority in the House following a session that saw passage of the nation’s first civil union law.
Holzapfel finished out of the running in the 2000 election in a Vergennes-area district that remained solidly Republican, electing then-Reps. Connie Houston of Ferrisburgh and Tom McGrath of Vergennes. The rest of Addison County’s legislative delegation was also solidly Republican.
Fast-forward to 2012: Democrats hold substantial majorities in the Vermont House and Senate. The county’s legislative delegation is now also overwhelmingly Democratic, and Democrats have made inroads in the Vergennes-area Addison-3 district. Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, has joined Rep. Greg Clark, R-Vergennes, in representing the traditional GOP stronghold.
With Democrats gaining ground and Lanpher needing a running mate in her two-seat district, Holzapfel decided to rejoin the political fray. The two Democrats are hoping to out-poll the incumbent Republican, Clark, in a district that includes Ferrisburgh, Addison, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham
“Diane (Lanpher) called to ask me if I wanted to run,” Holzapfel said, noting Democrats’ traditional desire to have two candidates in the race in order to complete the ticket. “I had the history. I knew what I was getting into.”
Holzapfel, 55, came to Vermont in 1986 to enroll in the University of Vermont’s graduate program in electrical engineering. In 1991, she moved to Ferrisburgh, where she and her husband continue to reside.
Holzapfel has worked in Middlebury College’s libraries since 1992. Now in the newer Davis Family Library, she oversees the college’s database of on-line publications.
When she is not working, spending time with family and friends or making crafts, Holzapfel is working toward a master’s degree in mediation, a skill she believes would come in handy as a legislator.
“In general, all legislative issues require collaboration,” Holzapfel said. “It’s a process. I believe my mediation background will help me ... no matter what the issues are.”
Holzapfel’s interest in mediation — and her renewed interest in serving in the Legislature — emerged in 2004. That’s when she and Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, took the same mediation class at Woodbury College. They carpooled to the class together and chatted about legislative issues, including tough times for farmers, health care reform and a tight state budget.
Those issues, among many others, remain on lawmakers’ lengthy to-do list.
If elected, Holzapfel vowed to support policies that would help Vermont farmers diversify their products and market them throughout New England and Canada.
“Pursuing that further is a good thing to do,” Holzapfel said.
She believes Vermont agriculture has the opportunity to help the health care industry. Holzapfel noted there are plant-based medicines that could be grown by farmers, thereby providing them supplemental income.
“That would reduce health costs and provide the possibility for diversified agriculture — and get us away from big pharma,” Holzapfel said.
She also wants to see more alternative medicine practitioners — such as herbalists and acupuncturists — added to the list of eligible providers under health insurance plans.
“A lot of friends of mine get health care other than from their family doctors, or in addition to their family doctors,” Holzapfel said. “There is clinical evidence to show those (alternative) practices can help certain patients. It makes sense to me that where we can see real benefit from these other practices, to get them covered on our health care plan.”
Holzapfel believes the state is on the right track in pursuing a single-payer health care system.
“I am definitely in favor of getting away from employer-based health care,” she said. “I know a lot of people who stay in their jobs because they have health care and they are afraid to lose it if they leave. So it makes sense to de-couple that and I certainly like the idea of single-payer and hope we get to implement it.”
She also vowed to support policies that would make higher education and alternative education more accessible and affordable for Vermonters.
Holzapfel said she would continue to define her positions on issues as her campaign progresses.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]