MONTPELIER — Three years ago, Christine Hallquist was Gov. Phil Scott’s election opponent, and the nation’s first transgender person nominated for governor by a major party.
On Monday, Hallquist, a former utility executive who has been working to support Communications Union Districts in their efforts to improve high-speed internet access, was appointed by Scott as executive director of the newly established Vermont Community Broadband Board.
“I cannot think of a better person to lead this important effort than Christine,” Scott said of Hallquist in a prepared statement. “Her experience as a cooperative executive and most recent experience with two CUDs as well as her long-standing commitment to expanding broadband in Vermont will be valuable to this work.”
Hallquist ran against Scott, a Republican, as the Democratic nominee for governor in 2018. She finished as runner-up with 40 percent of the vote, as Scott won a second term with 55 percent.
“I’m honored and eager to take on this role,” Hallquist said in the same statement. “I have spent many years working in this space, and I truly believe Vermont’s future depends on getting everyone connected to fiber optic cable. The investment here is historic and I look forward to helping CUDs across the state deliver.”
The Vermont Community Broadband Board was established by an act of the Legislature signed into law by Scott last month, operating within the state Department of Public Service. She will work with a five-person board, with appointees named by the Legislature, Scott and the Vermont Communications Union District Association.
The board’s task is to provide expertise and support to the CUDs as they create, develop and implement business plans for building out fiber networks to the “last mile” not yet served by high-speed internet service in Vermont.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how essential that service has become for business, education and health. The effort to meet that need had broad support from the Scott administration and the Legislature, which set aside $150 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to help make it happen.
As executive director’s supervisory and leadership roles include managing the Vermont Community Broadband Board’s administrative budget, hiring staff or contractors as needed, making recommendations to the Board for grant awards and working with the board to support the CUDs.
Hallquist is expected to begin work on July 26, and the board is scheduled to meet for the first time on Aug. 9.
“Expanding access to broadband is critical in a 21st Century economy, and by increasing connectivity in rural and underserved areas in every corner of the state, we will take an important step toward increasing regional economic equity,” Scott said of the task ahead.
Hallquist comes to the job with plenty of utility experience. From 2000 to 2018, she worked at Vermont Electric Cooperative, serving as its chief executive for 13 years. More recently, she worked with NEK Broadband and Lamoille FiberNet, two CUDs working to expand broadband in Vermont.
“Christine brings to the table a reputation for excellence as a seasoned utility executive with a proven record in Vermont for successfully meeting challenges and leveraging scarce resources,” said June Tierney, the state Commissioner of Public Service. “She has the ‘can do’ confidence and real-world experience needed to engage effectively with the infrastructure planning and market dynamics facing Vermont’s Communications Union Districts.”