Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo
Barre Town Rep. Tom Koch, center, listens to Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget address with fellow legislators at the State House in January.
MONTPELIER — Tom Koch is going fishing.
The Republican state representative from Barre Town made the announcement on the House floor Tuesday morning that he would not seek re-election after 22 years in office.
“For 22 winters, I have been privileged to represent the people of the town of Barre in this chamber, and I will be eternally grateful to them for that opportunity,” said Koch, 71. “I have always maintained, however, that my service in this House will end before they carry me out feet first, and it is time for me to make good on that vow.”
Koch’s service will likely be missed. He is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee and chairman of the Joint Committee on Judicial Retention. Recently he also led a study committee on precious metal dealers, which drafted a bill that tightens regulations on the business.
That bill received Senate approval Monday.
“Tom is the epitome of what you want in a legislator,” said House Speaker Shap Smith. “He’s a conscientious, very thoughtful, balanced, reasonable guy, and we’re going to miss him. He’s been a statesman in the House, and it’s a real loss to have him leave.”
Koch discussed the many issues he addressed during his more than two decades in the House, including election law reform and Act 250 revision; mental health treatment and the closing of the Vermont State Hospital; and most recently, fighting illegal drug use while advocating for the treatment of addicts.
“Whatever effect my efforts have had is for others to judge, but what I do know is that people who refer to being a legislator as ‘a thankless job’ are dead wrong,” Koch said. “I have been repeatedly amazed to open my mail to find a simple thank you note, and notes like that are all the reward that one could ever want.”
Koch quoted a fellow representative who several years ago announced she was not running for re-election.
“It’s like having a baby,” Koch said. “When you’re done, you know it.”
In an indication of what his future plans entail, after his announcement — for which he received a thunderous standing ovation from everyone in the House chamber — Koch hung a sign in front of his desk that read, “Gone fishin’.”
In an interview after his announcement, Koch went into more detail about both his future plans and reasons for not seeking re-election.
“It’s just the right time for me and my wife. This time in our lives, we need to spend more time together. It’s been a real sacrifice for her, not knowing when I’m going to be home for dinner or any number of other things,” said Koch, who, in addition to being a legislator, was an attorney in Barre for 40 years.
“We’re going to travel some, probably spend part of the winter in a warmer climate, and we have some other plans,” Koch continued. “But I have 175 acres in Barre Town that needs to be taken care of, and I will probably find other ways to serve.”
Rep. Francis McFaun, another Republican from Barre Town, thanked his colleague for his decades of service.
“Tom, in my opinion, is one of the most respected members of this House, and I’m going to say, from the bottom of my heart, I’m going to miss you,” McFaun said. “I thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for this House, and I wish you well as you go fishing.”
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