Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison), chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, announced Thursday that she will not seek reelection in November after 16 years in the Vermont legislature.
Ayer is the sixth legislative committee chair to announce his or her retirement this year. The others are Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland), chair of Senate Institutions; as well as Reps. David Sharpe (D-Bristol) of House Education; David Deen (D-Westminster) of House Fish, Wildlife and Natural Resources; Helen Head (D-South Burlington) of House General, Housing and Military Affairs; and Stephen Carr (D-Brandon) of House Energy and Technology.
Ayer announced her intentions in her hometown newspaper, the Addison Independent. She explained that she wants to make room for new blood in the Senate. “It is a citizens' legislature and there should be replenishment of new ideas and new energy that goes along with that,” she told the Independent.
The 69-year-old Ayer was first elected to the Senate in 2002. She has chaired the Health and Welfare Committee since 2011, through the tumult of then-governor Peter Shumlin's efforts to institute single-payer health care. Ayer was a candidate for Senate President Pro Tempore in 2016, but the Democratic caucus coalesced around Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden). She withdrew and endorsed Ashe before the caucus meeting, which elected Ashe unanimously.
Ayer told Seven Days that she considered retiring in 2016 but, following the death of her husband, sought another term to stay busy.
“These are my friends,” Ayer said of her Statehouse colleagues. “I needed to have hard work to do, especially during these long winter months.”
She said she's ready for a change.
“Now I feel like I need to reconnect at home. I want to go back to volunteering for various nonprofits and good organizations,” Ayer said. “I have two grandkids that I don’t see enough of, three kids that I don’t see enough of.”
While Ayer is leaving her Senate post, she plans to stay busy.
“I have a lot of options, and I intend to do almost all of them,” she said.