Scott appoints Kelly MacLaury Pajala to seat vacated by Olsen

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LONDONDERRY — Town Clerk Kelly MacLaury Pajala has been selected by Gov. Phil Scott to fill the House seat vacated this month by Rep. Oliver Olsen, I-Londonderry.

Pajala, also an independent, had said in October that she would seek the post, after Olsen announced he would step down because of increased business commitments.

"Kelly has demonstrated an impressive commitment to serving her community through her time as town clerk, as well as through volunteer and other civic commitments," Scott said in a release Thursday morning. "She's shown a willingness to listen and be responsive to her constituents, and has an important understanding of the needs of her community. That, coupled with her business experience, will bring a valuable perspective to the State House, and I look forward to working with her."

The Windham-Bennington-Windsor House district serves the towns of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall.

Pajala has been town clerk in Londonderry since 2012 and previously served as assistant town clerk in Weston. She also owned a business, Dancing Hands Creations, and has participated in volunteer activities, including as the Londonderry Parks Board chairwoman, as a member of the West River Farmers Market Board, Little School Board and the Weston Planning Commission.

"I am so honored to receive this appointment from Governor Scott and for the opportunity to serve the people of the district where I've spent most of my life, getting to know the people, challenges and strengths of this region," Pajala said. "My years of service with the town have taught me it's more important to listen than speak, to approach challenges with an open mind and to always be respectful."

Scott's office said the process for replacing an independent in the Legislature is unlike replacing a Republican or Democratic, because county committees do not make recommendations for replacements. In keeping with tradition, Scott said he wanted to appoint an independent to the seat vacated by an independent representative.

Pajala said she grew up in Weston and graduated from Burr and Burton Academy, later graduating cum laude from Skidmore College with a bachelor's degree in Women's Studies.

She has listed economic development, affordability, and the protection of school choice as key priorities that she would pursue.

Olsen, who won re-election in 2016, cited business commitments in his decision not to seek another term in the House district.

He said increasing professional responsibilities made it difficult to balance his job with his family life and the time demands of representing his district. Olsen said he works for a large multinational software company and has been asked "to take on additional responsibilities over the past year."

Olsen was appointed to fill a vacancy in the House district in 2010 and was elected that November to a full term. He stepped down in 2012 but returned to run successfully again in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.

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