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Sen. Bobby Starr will not seek reelection after more than four decades in the Vermont Statehouse

A man sitting in a room with green walls and a painting of cows in a field above his head.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Sen. Bobby Starr sits in the Senate Agriculture committee room at the beginning of the 2023 legislative session. Starr announced this week he will not be seeking reelection after the 2024 session.

Orleans County Sen. Bobby Starr joined a growing list of elder statesmen who are departing the Vermont Senate when he announced Monday morning that he won’t seek reelection.

Starr, an 81-year-old Troy resident who began serving in Montpelier as a Vermont House representative in 1979, announced his decision during an emotional speech in Newport.

“My wife and I have come to the conclusion that maybe it’s time that I retire,” Starr said at a legislative breakfast.

Starr was first elected to the Senate in 2004, and has served as chair of the agriculture committee for the past decade.

In an interview with Vermont Public Monday, Starr said his top legislative accomplishments include the creation of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board in 1987, the Northeast Interstate Dairy Compact in the late 1990s, and, more recently, passage of a bill that requires Vermont schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of income.

Starr said the school meals bill was conceived in his committee as a way to increase sales of Vermont-grown products in public school cafeterias.

“It all started in [the Senate Committee on Agriculture] trying to promote school lunch programs to buy produce and fruit from our small … farms, rather than getting it shipped in here by tractor trailer and all of that,” Starr said. “And so we said, 'The hell with it, we’ll get the kids to be eating for free and then there will be money to allow this to happen.'”

Starr is the third longtime member of the Vermont Senate to announce their departure from the chamber this year. Grand Isle County Sen. Dick Mazza resigned from the Senate earlier this month due to health reasons. Windsor County Sen. Dick McCormack previously announced he won’t seek another term.

Essex County Sen. Russ Ingalls, a Republican, called Starr a “dying breed” of fiscally conservative Democrats in Montpelier.

“We have a very few up-and-comers who know how to cross party lines, and know what to do as far as to represent their people,” Ingalls said. “And it’s a sad day.”

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The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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