Sarah Edwards won't seek re-election
BRATTLEBORO - For the past 10 years, Sarah Edwards has been Brattleboro's progressive voice in the state Legislature.
She helped pass legislation making it easier to dispose of electronic waste, helped establish the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, worked with a group of students at Brattleboro Union High School to develop legislation requiring that suppliers of uniforms, shoes and other textiles for the state guarantee their products are sweat-shop free, and helped push through the marriage equality bill.
But on Monday, Edwards said she won't be running for re-election later this year.
"It is a very difficult decision to say good-bye to work that has been so meaningful, engaging, and rewarding," she said. "I would like to thank all of the people in the district for their support over the past 10 years, and for keeping me on my toes."
Edwards said she has been thinking of leaving the statehouse for the past three years. She said it's become increasingly difficult to balance her work in the statehouse with her family foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of coral reefs around the world.
"I've been trying to split my attention between the two for the last couple of years," she said. "But the nonprofit needs my attention now more than ever."
The Lighthouse Reef Conservation Institute is a non-profit conservation, education and research organization hoping to merge the oft-conflicting aspects of commerce, community and conservation in a model of sustainability on an atoll of six cayes about 45 miles off the coast of Belize.
It is one of just four atolls in the entire western hemisphere with a coral reef ecosystem, which stretches 27 miles in length and is about eight miles wide.
Her whole family is involved in the foundation, which is creating what it is calling The Lighthouse Reef Model for Resilience and Sustainability.
"The Vermont ethos has shaped the way the foundation has evolved," said Edwards.
One of her tasks will be to connect the foundation with big-name colleges to create a world-class research institution.
Interest in developing models to protect coral reefs is at an all-time high because their continued survival is being threatened by global climate change, said Edwards.
Edwards, a Progressive-Democrat with an MS in organizational behavior and management from Antioch University and a BS in biology/ecology from Marlboro College, is planning on pursuing another degree in biological diversity and conservation.
Despite her excitement in turning her full attention to the foundation, Edwards said her decision to leave the statehouse is bittersweet.
"I have loved being in the Legislature," she said. "I am very proud of the Legislature's civil discourse and its ability to have a dialogue."
Edwards said she doesn't have any regrets about leaving the Legislature, but is going to miss having ready access to information, the high quality of the dialogue in the statehouse and being "right in the thick of it."
"And I'm going to miss my colleagues," she said.
What she won't miss, she said, is being away from home, family and community during the legislative session.
However, Edwards said she is not leaving Brattleboro and will continue to be involved in how best to resolve the issue of the storage of nuclear waste at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.
Edwards, who was a member of the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel, will also be following the state's appeal of a recent decision by a federal judge that invalidated legislation giving the Legislature a say in Yankee's continued operation.
She had some advice for whoever decides to run to replace her in the statehouse: "Listen to your constituents and work on behalf of them and the state, keep informed, and don't forget to take care of yourself. It's a lot of work."
She said Brattleboro's new legislator will have his or her hands full with legislation that could force food producers to label products that contain genetically modified organisms, pushing for more energy efficiencies, helping to improve Vermont housing stock and getting the Death with Dignity bill approved.
Steve Costello, spokesman for Central Vermont Public Service, said Edwards has been a straight-forward advocate for her community and her constituents.
"She played a critically important role when we were seeking public involvement as we studied possible solutions to reliability concerns along the Southern Loop," said Costello. "Her direct nature and probing questions helped ensure we did a good job of engaging the communities of the region, and helped ensure the menu of solutions we have incorporated would be supported by the region."
Ann Manwaring, D-Wilmington, said that while not everyone in the Legislature agreed with her on everything, she has been an informed and effective voice for Windham County and all of Vermont.
"She will be missed as a friend and as a legislator who always works hard for her community," said Manwaring.
Gov. Peter Shumlin said Edwards has served Brattleboro and Vermont with distinction, dedication and vision.
"She's been a leader in helping to move Vermont from our addiction to oil to renewables, efficiency and a smart energy future," said Shumlin. "Her passion and good judgment will be missed in Montpelier."
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, Vt.-D, said Edwards has been an effective advocate and admired legislator who puts the safety and well being of the people she represents above all else.
"Her strong voice on issues of importance to her constituents and all Vermonters will be greatly missed," he said.
To learn more about Lighthouse Reef, visit ambergriscaye.com.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311 ext. 160.
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