MONTPELIER — Town Meeting Day elections are still a week away, but Pat McDonald says her eyes are already on a November prize. The former two-term state lawmaker from Berlin wants to represent Washington County in the state Senate.
A veteran of both state and local government, McDonald kicked off her Republican candidacy for one of the county’s three Senate seats during a recent gathering of legislative leaders. She represented Berlin and a portion of Barre in the Legislature from 2006 to 2010.
McDonald, 70, emphasized opportunity and affordability in her announcement.
“Like most Vermonters, my husband and I have watched our property taxes go up steadily, every year, and we struggle with living on fixed incomes,” she said, acknowledging that they have it better than many.
McDonald said myriad other issues and concerns that have occupied headlines and dominated dinner table conversations in central Vermont lately helped spark her candidacy.
“Hearing about job losses, increased poverty levels, an exploding drug epidemic, the dismal state of our mental health care system, the cost of health care, and — more recently — concerns about safety in our own communities, we realize that our own affordability struggle, while frustrating and real, actually pales in comparison to what many of our neighbors are going through,” McDonald said.
“So, much as I had planned on retirement, I decided it was a critical time for me to step back in,” she added.
It isn’t the first time McDonald has set her sights on one of Washington County’s three seats in the state Senate, though she cited family issues in abruptly ending her 2010 bid five months after announcing her candidacy.
McDonald, who dropped out of the race before her name ever appeared on the ballot that year, didn’t rule out a comeback at the time.
Now she has dusted off her “Together … We can fix it” campaign theme and picked up right where she left off four years ago.
“After four decades of service in both the public and private sectors, I’ve developed a leadership style that I believe can help bring some focus and consensus to those difficult conversations,” she said, ticking through a list of issues she believes need to be addressed.
Lowering property taxes and making Vermont a more affordable place to live are at the top of the list, which also includes stimulating economic growth while preserving the environment, streamlining state government, and making sure safety-net programs are effective.
A New Jersey native who moved to Vermont in 1988, McDonald served three governors — two Republicans and one Democrat — in seven high-profile appointed positions during her 13 years with the state. She was deputy commissioner of education, commissioner of the motor vehicles, personnel and labor departments and, most recently, secretary of transportation. She retired in 2006.
Elected to the Legislature in 2006 and again in 2008, McDonald has also served at the local and regional levels. She is a past chairwoman of the Select Board in Berlin, where she currently is chairwoman of the town’s economic development committee. She has represented Berlin on the Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission and served the community and the area in a number of other appointed and volunteer capacities.
Before entering government, McDonald spent more than 20 years in the private sector. She worked at the CIBA-GEIGY Corp. in Ardsley, N.Y., and as vice president of human resources and regulatory management at Merchants Bank in Vermont.
She lives in Berlin with her husband, J. Bruce McDonald, a retired state police captain. She has one daughter, two stepsons and four grandsons.
McDonald’s campaign website can be found at www.patforvtsenate.com.
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