After 22 years in the Vermont House, Appropriations Committee chairwoman Martha Heath (D-Westford) plans to retire when her term expires at the end of the year.
"I started thinking about it over a year ago and I just wanted to sit on it for a while and see if it continued to seem right — and it has," she says. "I could list a whole lot of reasons, but my inner voice is just telling me it's time."
In her ten years heading one of the legislature's four "money committees," Heath has had a tremendous influence over how the state allocates its resources.
She cites her work balancing the budget in tough economic times as one of her chief accomplishments. Another has been defending the state's education funding formula, codified in Act 60 and Act 68.
"I went to the legislature because I was so discouraged by the school funding system, and I worked really hard on that issue for a number of years," she says. "So even though Act 60 is under a lot of attack at the moment, I think it's an elegant funding formula, and I'm really proud that we were able to make things more equitable for students in Vermont."
First elected in 1992, the Westford resident spent six years on the House Committee on Education and another 16 on Appropriations. She says she hopes to see her vice chairwoman, Rep. Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero), succeed her as committee head.
Heath was facing a challenge from economist and Westford school board chairman Bob Bancroft, a Republican, but she says that didn't play a role in her decision to retire. Essex Democrat Liz Subin also plans to run for the seat, which represents both towns.
What's next for the outgoing rep remains to be seen. Heath says she hopes to find a part-time job — perhaps in the public policy arena — but she hasn't started looking yet.
"I still serve on my local school board and on the [Vermont Student Assistance Corporation] board," she says, "so it's not like I'm going to be bored."