Montpelier, Vt. – Vermont’s newly elected lieutenant governor, David Zuckerman, says he plans to focus on promoting rural economic development and boosting wages for Vermonters by raising the minimum wage.
When not serving in Montpelier, Zuckerman, 45, and his wife run an organic vegetable farm in Hinesburg. He first ran for State Representative in 1994, while still an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont. The issues then, he said, were “similar issues to the challenges we face today.”
Although he lost that first election, Zuckerman went on to serve 14 years in the Vermont House and four years in the state Senate before he decided to run for lieutenant governor last year. In the legislature, he focused on a wide range of issues, including renewable energy, affordable housing, livable wages, GMO labeling, universal healthcare, progressive taxation, cannabis reform, marriage equality, and end-of-life choices.
In a recent interview with the office of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Zuckerman shared some of his thoughts on his new position as Vermont’s lieutenant governor. Asked about his top priorities, he emphasized raising the minimum wage, strengthening Vermont’s agricultural economy, and expanding broadband to the most rural corners of the state.
While he was running for lieutenant governor, Zuckerman said he most frequently heard about the need for rural economic development and the economic struggles many Vermonters face. He stressed that while “some people talk about ‘affordability,’ others of us talk about getting fair wages and pay for your work.” Zuckerman said he wants to “level the playing field and make the system more fair for working people.”
“Rural communities across the country are struggling,” he said, explaining that he wants to help rejuvenate Vermont’s rural economy. “Sometimes, people will say, ‘It’s the policies in Montpelier that are destroying Vermont’s rural communities.’ Well, actually, you go to any primarily rural state, from left to right politically, and the rural communities are hollowing out. We actually are in a much better position to reverse that, given our proximity to the Northeast population centers.”
Zuckerman says his background as a farmer helps him connect with Vermonters. “When I went around the state, I think that’s part of what resonated with Vermonters: they can see a piece of themselves in what I was talking about, regardless of which part of the state I was in. As a small business owner, I’m an employer. As a farmer, I’m a problem solver – working with my hands, which connected to a lot of people out there,” Zuckerman said.
“Farming is extraordinarily hard work and extraordinarily rewarding work. Vermonters work hard. We’ve got that New England stubbornness that I think connects many of us together. It’s self-sufficiency that, I think, especially in northern New England, is still valued and cherished, and is not really a partisan attitude. It’s a beautiful blend of individual self-sufficiency and community,” he said.
MEETING WITH VERMONTERS
Zuckerman said he plans to hold a series of town meetings throughout Vermont focused on “rural economic development to help foster empowerment.”
He also wants to bring the voices of struggling Vermonters to the Statehouse. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel as though their voices are heard as much here in the Statehouse[WD(1] ,” Zuckerman said.
He also plans to engage with students, to speak with them about the issues the state is facing. “With respect to young people, I’d like to help inspire hope, because right now we’re at a pretty hopeless time,” he said. “I think a lot of young people are really scared – from the climate to their individual rights, to what kind of jobs they’re going to have, to ‘Are we going to have new wars because of this new president?’ My goal is to say, ‘Let’s do what we can here.’ We have an amazing community and we can be an example for this country of how we move forward together while we also can disagree in a respectful manner.”
Zuckerman noted, “I think our ingenuity, our hard, determined work ethic and our entrepreneurial vision gives us an incredible opportunity that other states don’t have.”