Jean Bowman (submitted photo)
Jean Bowman (submitted photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- Joan Bowman is a relatively new resident of the Green Mountain State. But the Putney resident has been active in her short time here, getting involved with organizations including Putney Cares, Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition, Vermont Food Bank and Transition Putney.

Bowman also runs her own consulting company and, for the past six months, has worked as a navigator for Vermont Health Connect.

Those diverse experiences have led Bowman to two conclusions: There is great need in this part of Vermont, and she would like to fill that need as a state senator representing Windham County.

"The core issue for me is constituent service," Bowman said. "I just know that there are a lot of small businesses and nonprofits and individuals who need help, and I think I'm somebody who wants to spend her time helping people get to the resources they need."

Bowman announced that she plans to run for one of Windham County's two Democratic Senate nominations in the Aug. 26 primary. If Democratic Sens. Jeanette White and Peter Galbraith both seek new terms, that means Bowman will be trying to unseat an incumbent.

But Bowman doesn't see her effort as a campaign against either sitting senator.

"I think it's really important for us to be having conversations about the economic development of our county and the impact of the various laws and decisions that are being made in Montpelier now. A primary is always a wonderful opportunity for people to hear from their elected officials," she said.

"I'm not running against them," Bowman added. "I'm running for an opportunity to do something that I really believe in."

Bowman is a Michigan native and former Connecticut resident who moved to Vermont in June 2010 to be nearer her son, who is a Marlboro College graduate and a South Hero resident.

She has volunteered for political campaigns before, most recently serving as a Democratic field organizer for Windham County in 2012. But Bowman never has held or run for elected office.

Asked what led her to seek a state Senate seat, Bowman points to one primary issue -- "universal health care, single-payer."

Vermont's move toward such a program is dogged by financial and logistical questions, but Bowman believes the state is on the right path.

"It's a really important issue for me to see that all Vermonters have health care," she said. "I want to take the talents I have as a businessperson in analyzing how you make money, how you save money, how we balance budgets, and I want to be on the floor and I want to be in support of coming up with the right payment system for Green Mountain Care in the years to come."

Her job as a Health Connect navigator "has been so fantastic, because it has allowed me to work with this diverse group of individuals and families and sole proprietors and, originally, with small businesses. That's my background -- my background is working with entrepreneurs."

Bowman has a master's degree in business administration, and she has assisted struggling companies of all sizes.

"So I look at communities the way I would at a business that's losing money, and I say, ‘Where are the strengths? Where are the challenges?'" she said.

Bowman has sought to address those challenges in Windham County through her work as a board member and treasurer for Putney Cares and as a steering-committee member for Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition.

"I'm really concerned about how to be a resource to all the constituents -- to people in every town," she said. "In every town, somebody there doesn't understand the system -- doesn't know how to get help."

Aside from health care, Bowman said she also is interested in topics such as universal pre-kindergarten, state finances, and economic development.

"I love working with youth," she said. "I'm really concerned about keeping young people in Windham County and helping them to create businesses. I've worked with some of the young farmers who have gotten grants for their farms."

If elected, Bowman pledges that she would communicate with constituents regularly.

"I could put out a newsletter every single week on what's going on in Montpelier -- how I voted, why I voted the way I did. Or, ‘these bills are coming up, and I need your input,'" she said.

She'll also need that sort of communication to get elected. Bowman said she plans to campaign door-to-door in all of the district's towns, and she also will call voters and solicit volunteer help. "People need to know me," she said.