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Governor Fills House Seat With Experienced Administrator

Charlotte Albright/ VPR

Governor Peter Shumlin has named an experienced government administrator to a newly vacant state house seat representing part of the Upper Valley. Kathy Hoyt, the former chief of staff for Howard Dean and Madeleine Kunin, will replace Margaret Cheney, who resigned from the legislature to serve on the Public Service Board.

For now, Hoyt’s at home, preparing for the next challenge.

On a gorgeous fall afternoon in Norwich, in her big yellow house on a hill up a dirt road, she  opened the front the door for an insistent cat.

“This coon cat was my husband’s favorite thing in the whole world,” she said.

Her husband, Norrie Hoyt, died in early August of congestive heart failure. He was 78. His wife had been caring for him for almost three years. Now Kathy Hoyt itches to be busy and useful in new ways.

“Not full time,  every day work outside of government but in something else, Hoyt said.  “And Peter Shumlin called and he said, “would I do it?” And so I thought about it a little bit and said, “yes I would” because I would really love to finish out my career on that side of public service.”

Public service has been important to Hoyt ever since she was a young woman growing up in North Carolina. In Vermont, she worked in human services before becoming Labor Commissioner in the Kunin Administration in the late eighties, when Vermont’s first woman governor made a point of bringing other women into government. Kunin says she liked Hoyt’s spark and her can-do attitude.

“And I think she’ll bring a great wealth of experience to the legislature about how government functions that very few legislators have had,” Kunin said.

Kunin left office in January 1991. And when Governor Richard Snelling died unexpectedly in office later that year, Howard Dean stepped in and appointed Kathy Hoyt as his chief of staff and secretary of administration. That gave her a front row seat on taxation and budget issues – knowledge she says will come in handy as the state moves towards universal healthcare.

“As we get ready to finance that, it will call into question a lot of the issues about tax expenditures, how do we use the resources we already have, is there a better way to collect the money?” Hoyt wondered.

She recently served on a Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. As Chief of Staff for two governors, Hoyt says she also knows what it’s like to solve everyday problems for constituents. Despite her southern drawl, she says she has never been dismissed as an outsider.

“I was very fortunate, most people ended up liking me and supporting me, and I just didn’t feel like an outsider, even if I was,” Hoyt said.

Maybe that’s because she was an insider in government.

But Hoyt says she’s like other active women her age who find themselves alone and have to re-invent their lives.

“I think people really have to consider when there’s a major event like the loss of a spouse they have to consider what are the next things for them or you can just get depressed and sit alone all the time and you don’t want to let yourself do that.”

Kathy Hoyt is too busy to do that, anyway, as she packs her bag for a road trip with one of her two sons before she comes back to Vermont to be sworn in as the Upper Valley’s newest representative to the legislature.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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