Shaftsbury rep to retire after 11th House term

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SHAFTSBURY — Longtime Shaftsbury representative Alice Miller said a House colleague once told her she would know when it was time to retire from the Legislature.

That time has come, she said this week, announcing that she won't seek a 12th term in November.

"I just came to the conclusion it was time to stop," said Miller. "I'm just going to enjoy my life and hope it will become a little more stress-free, although I'll always be engaged in politics."

Miller, a Democrat representing the Shaftsbury-Sunderland-Glastenbury district, is the third member of the Bennington-area legislative delegation to decline a run for re-election, after Reps. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal/Woodford, and Rachael Fields, D-Bennington 2-1.

At least two candidates have expressed interest in replacing Miller: Shaftsbury Select Board Chairman Tim Scoggins, and David Durfee, a member of the Shaftsbury and Mount Anthony Union School District boards. Both are Democrats.

Nomination petitions for major party candidates must be submitted to the clerk's office today by 5 p.m.

"Working as a member of the Vermont House of Representatives has been the most gratifying and challenging experience of my life," Miller said in announcing her retirement. "I have made good friends here, in Shaftsbury, Glastenbury and Sunderland, and in state government."

Among notable legislation passed during her tenure, she said, were Act 60, enacted in 1997 to address equality of education spending and implement income sensitivity provisions for property taxpayers; Civil Union (2000) and Marriage Equality (2009) legislation extending those rights to same-sex couples; and Act 46, the 2015 school district consolidation bill Miller worked on as a member of the House Committee on Education.

"Being a representative has not been an easy job," she said. "At times, I have had to cast votes that gained me some friends at the expense of others. While I always tried to serve my community, there were times when I cast votes that I thought to be best for all Vermonters."

During her years in the House, Miller also has served on the Fish and Wildlife and Appropriations committees. She also now serves as a Vermont delegate to the New England Board of Higher Education.

Not on her radar

Miller said running for the House was "the furthest thing from my mind" when she returned to her home in Shaftsbury in 1993 to care for her mother.

But soon she was encouraged to run for the Select Board and won her first term by just 11 votes. A bit later she was approached to run for the House by local Democrats, and when the district incumbent, the late Dr. James Shea, decided not to run again, Miller entered the 1996 race and won.

Previously, she had a 26-year career in public and private education. She'd been living in New Jersey and working for the Swiss firm Roche Diagnostics in a research and development management role for five years prior to returning home to Shaftsbury.

The Bennington College graduate worked as a special education instructor in Shaftsbury; as a consultant in that field with the Vermont Agency of Education; and with a Head Start program in the Brattleboro area developing an education model to benefit both low-income students and their family members.

She also returned to Bennington College to revive and oversee the non-resident "field work" program, which coordinates internships and temporary jobs for students during the traditional long break between the fall and spring semesters.

Miller travelled 150 days a year all over the world in that role, she said, working with the Bennington alumni network and others to place students in internships with hospitals, businesses, popular television shows or film productions, among numerous options she reviewed.

She also oversaw student life services for a time at the college.

Miller, 79, was born on Long Island, N.Y., moved to Vermont in 1950, and later graduated from the former North Bennington High School. She graduated from Bennington College in 1960 and subsequently earned a master's degree in education from Bank Street College in New York.

"I remain optimistic about the future of our community, and the future of Vermont," she said in her statement on retirement. "As long as we continue to work together, respecting each other, as we do at town meeting, we can meet every challenge."

She told constituents: "I look forward to supporting our next representative, but do not be surprised to see me standing up at meetings and speaking my mind. I look forward to you doing the same."

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