Jane Kitchel Retiring From the Vermont Senate | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Jane Kitchel Retiring From the Vermont Senate


Published May 17, 2024 at 2:10 p.m.

Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia)
Sen. Jane Kitchel, a farm girl from Danville who rose through the ranks of state government to become one of the most powerful members of the Senate, is retiring after 20 years in office.

As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee since 2011, the Democrat wielded significant influence over which legislative initiatives got the green light and which were curtailed for lack of funding.

She adopted a sober demeanor and demonstrated a tireless work ethic during budget battles. He longtime colleagues knew her for her keen wit and motherly warmth.

“I have been incredibly honored to serve the State of Vermont and I take pride in what I have been able to accomplish,” she said in a statement. “I owe a great deal of gratitude to the many people who helped and supported me along the way. Leaving office was a difficult decision, but the time has come.”

Kitchel, who is 78, is only the latest longtime Democratic senator to bow out. Dick Mazza, 84, who represented Grand Isle, retired in April after 40 years in the chamber because he has cancer. Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Orleans), 81, and Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor), 76, have announced they will not seek reelection after decades in the Senate.
Senate Appropriations Committee chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Senate Appropriations Committee chair Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia)
At times, Kitchel’s alliance with conservative Democrats such as Mazza, Starr and Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) have prevented Democratic priorities from advancing, such as the modernization of the bottle bill and paid family leave.

The departures signal another shift in the legislative landscape. It comes on the heels of a pandemic-inspired exodus of one-third of lawmakers just two years ago.

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden-Central) said Kitchel would be impossible to replace.

“Her knowledge of government and its many far-flung programs is encyclopedic; her energy is inexhaustible, and her heart unerringly true,” Baruth said in a statement. “Every agency, every department, just about every hard-working non-profit owes her an incalculable debt, as do all the millions of Vermonters who have benefited from her wisdom and steely competence over the years.”

Fresh out of college in 1967, Kitchel took a job as a social worker in the St. Johnsbury district office of what was then known as the Department of Social Welfare. Then-governor Howard Dean appointed her secretary of the Agency of Human Services in 1999, calling her “the quintessential Vermonter”and “one of the most capable people I've met — anywhere.”
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Jane Kitchel
During the Dean administration, she helped reform state welfare programs, expanded the Dr. Dynasaur health care program for children and pregnant women, and established the 2-1-1 community resource hotline.

While in the Senate, she has been the architect of many of the most financially complex legislative initiatives, including addressing the state’s ballooning pension obligations, investing in the childcare system through a new payroll tax and making millions available to municipalities affected by last year’s devastating floods.

Baruth said Kitchel's knowledge about state government and the legislative processes is so deep that he would often adopt a two-word answer to people with questions: "Ask Jane." 

"I will take this opportunity to thank her from the bottom of my heart for her service, and her personal friendship. They have meant the world to me," Baruth said. 

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