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Jane Kitchel announces retirement after nearly 20 years in Vermont Senate

A woman with glasses and white hair speaks while using her hands. Another woman looks on from the side.
Zoe McDonald
Vermont Public
Sen. Jane Kitchel responds to Gov. Phil Scott's budget address on Tuesday, Jan. 23. Kitchel, who announced her retirement Friday, helmed the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The person who’s universally regarded as the most influential legislator in Montpelier announced Friday that she won’t seek reelection this fall.

Caledonia County Sen. Jane Kitchel has helmed budget deliberations in the Legislature for nearly two decades. And as the Democratic chair of her chamber’s appropriations committee, she’s played an outsize role in determining which line items make it into the state budget and which ones do not.

State Treasurer Mike Pieciak said Friday that Kitchel’s service is “unparalleled” and that her departure will leave a void in Montpelier.

“She’s somebody that many different governors, many different statewide leaders, many different legislators look to as a critical ally, and someone that has good judgement and experience, and will make the final decision oftentimes on which programs are able to move forward,” Pieciak told Vermont Public Friday.

The Danville native began her career as a caseworker at the Agency of Human Services and would go on to serve as secretary of the agency under Govs. Howard Dean and Jim Douglas.

She joined the Senate in 2005. During her tenure, she’s led complex negotiations related to major state spending decisions, including the pension fund, child care subsidies, health care and higher education.

“Her knowledge of government and its many far-flung programs is encyclopedic; her energy is inexhaustible, and her heart unerringly true.”
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth said in a statement Friday that the state’s high bond rating and “financial health” are a direct result of Kitchel’s “painstaking budgeting.”

"For most of the last two decades, Jane Kitchel has done the Legislature's heaviest lifting — designing and balancing budgets that protect the neediest and invest for the future, yet live within our means as a state,” Baruth said. “Her knowledge of government and its many far-flung programs is encyclopedic; her energy is inexhaustible, and her heart unerringly true.”

Kitchel said in a statement Friday that she’s “incredibly honored” to have served Vermont.

“And I take pride in what I have been able to accomplish,” she said. “Leaving office was a difficult decision, but the time has come.”

Kitchel is the fourth longtime member of the Vermont Senate to announce their retirement so far this year. Democratic Sen. Dick Mazza resigned due to health reasons in April; Democratic Sens. Bobby Starr and Dick McCormack say they won’t seek reelection this fall.

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