Another candidate stepped forward Monday to join what could become a crowded field for lieutenant governor.
Patricia Preston, the executive director of Vermont Council on World Affairs, announced her intention to seek the post being vacated by Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, who was elected in 2020 and is running for Congress.
“As Vermont's next Lieutenant Governor I will work tirelessly to build the trust and cooperation we need to solve our most pressing issues to make Vermont the state we know it can be,” Preston said in a video announcement.
Preston, who is running as a Democrat, joins Rep. Charlie Kimbell (D-Woodstock), who announced his candidacy last week. Others who’ve expressed interest in the position include Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), former Democratic representative Kitty Toll of Danville, and former Democratic/Progressive lieutenant governor David Zuckerman, who served two terms before making an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2020.
Preston, 36, has run the Burlington-based Vermont Council on World Affairs for nearly a decade. The nonprofit organization seeks to foster international understanding through public forums and visitor exchanges. This is her first run for public office.
Preston grew up on a dairy farm in Randolph Center and graduated from the University of Vermont with an education degree in 2007. She worked briefly at Burlington High School and later traveled abroad, including to Tanzania and Guatemala, conducting education programs for nonprofits.
Her time helming the Vermont Council on World Affairs makes her “uniquely positioned” to be lieutenant governor, she said, because the work has taken her all over Vermont and given her insight into issues facing the state.
The lieutenant governor presides over the Vermont Senate, but the position is largely ceremonial. In addition to being prepared to serve should the governor be unable, the lieutenant governor can cast tie-breaking votes, and also plays a limited role in legislative committee appointments.
Preston said her organization has generated “millions of dollars of economic impact” for the state, a figure she said reflects the money spent by hundreds of visitors in foreign exchanges, partnerships with local businesses and speaker series. Visitor exchange programs have gone virtual during the pandemic but have remained robust, she said.
One of the organization's events, held last year to honor the International Day of Peace, was moderated by Gray. Preston and Gray share similar biographies, as Vermont natives from agricultural backgrounds seeking higher office with little political experience. But despite the similarities, Preston declined to cite Gray as a specific inspiration.
"I think that there are lots of paths to office," Preston said. "I think I have worked with a lot of really strong and inspiring leaders through my work at the VCWA."