Wow! Thank you all so much for being here. Wow. Thanks to my family for being here. I want them to know that they are my inspiration for wanting to make this world a better place.
I'm here today because of my late father, Bob, who was part of a family business, Minter's Candy. He taught me the value of hard work and he showed that when businesses succeed, communities thrive.
I'm here because of my mom, Evelyn. She was the daughter of a varnish maker from St. Louis, Missouri, and her ticket out was to become a gifted figure skater and join the Ice Follies. Mom, you were my model of grace and the source of my optimism.
I'm here in my hometown of Waterbury because this community represents the resilience and strengths of our small towns.
I'm here today because of Tom and Heidi, who like their fellow Vermonters love our state and care deeply about its future.
I'm here because of Madeleine Kunin and Doug Racine who have blazed the trail, held the torch for leaders like me to share their vision for making Vermont a better place for every Vermonter.
I've been told that not many Vermonters know who I am, so allow me to introduce myself. I am Sue Minter, and I'm running for governor to make Vermont work!
Like so many of you, David and I were attracted to these wonderful mountains, the hiking and the skiing, but also the sense of community that radiates every time we go to the farmers market or the church supper or the senior center.
As a mom, I feel it always when I'm cheering my kids on the soccer field or at the baseball diamond or applauding them at the school play.
Supporting this sense of community is why I decided to run for state representative in 2004 and why I was so proud to represent this district for six years. As the secretary of transportation and the Irene recovery officer, I have been given the chance to help strengthen communities all around Vermont, and one of the great privileges I've had for the last fifteen years as a public servant has been to travel around and hear from Vermonters. The stories you have shared with me have touched me, and have made a determined to continue my public service.
There's Lisa, from Bartleby's Books in Wilmington. She told me how her bookstore and her dreams were nearly drowned when Irene tore through her town. But her little bookstore became a catalyst for that town's renewal.
There's Taylor, the standout school student and star athlete who I had the chance to coach soccer for 10 years. She told me of her dreams to go to college but her fears that she would not be able to afford the tuition.
And there's the snow plow drivers, our road heroes, who get out of bed at all hours of the night to make sure our school bus get to school and we can get to work safe and on time. I know their determination and how hard they work, and I also know that many of these drivers need two jobs just to make ends meet.
Vermonters are worried about their jobs. They're worried about stagnant salaries, childcare, rising taxes, and their kids' education.
I want you to know that I hear you, and I'm running for governor because where I see problems, I also see potential. I believe that our greatest moments of greatest challenge are also opportunities for great success, and no one knows better than the people here in Waterbury.
When Irene struck here in 2011, over 200 buildings and homes were damaged. The state hospital and state office complex was flooded and deserted. The water rose to right here where you are standing today. The losses were devastating.
But then I experienced the unbreakable spirit of this community, as neighbors and volunteers from near and far pulled together and made sure that no Vermonter was left behind. Over the course of the following four years after this disaster, I watched Waterbury move from a place of despair to a place brimming with hope and a positive vision for its future. This once devastated downtown is now booming. There are new businesses, a thriving arts community, a growing local economy and the Alchemist, whose famous pub was destroyed, has bounced back and they've kept the Heady Topper flowing.
But it wasn't just Waterbury. It was communities like this all over the state, from Waterbury to Wilmington, from Woodstock to Rutland and Brattleboro to Bennington.
I saw as I helped lead the rebuilding of 500 miles of damaged roads in record time, and as we were connecting towns, volunteers were busy. They organized. They raised money in communities all across the state to support Irene's survivors and to rebuild over 700 homes.
What I learned in the process was so much bigger than how to fix roads or rebuild homes. I saw people come together to make their communities work in the most difficult of circumstances.
We moved mud and mountains, and it was our sense of community – that we were all in this together – that is what compelled us. We didn't wait for Washington to tell us how or where to build. We got right to work and we rebuilt for the future. And when FEMA threw up roadblocks, we knocked 'em down.
We did this not as Democrats or as Republicans. We did it as Vermonters.
Vermonters don't need politicians to talk about their problems. They need a leader that brings people together to help solve problems.
And today I stand before you because we need to make Vermont work for all of us, for all parts of our state. Not just for the wealthy but for small businesses and hard-working families.
The foundation for a strong economy is an education system that gives all children the chance to succeed. Vermont is routinely ranked among the top states for educational outcomes. I want to maintain that excellence while reining in rising property taxes.
I'm committed to supporting all the ingredients for success: from early childhood education through the pre-k system and onward to higher education and job training. I want to work with schools and employers to make sure we are educating the workforce of the future.
Growing our economy means expanding opportunity for all Vermonters. For too many, poverty is becoming an insurmountable barrier, an unbreakable cycle. Consider this: today almost 20,000 children and nearly one-third of all female head of households in Vermont are living in poverty. And these families are struggling. We have to change this, for the strength of community but also for the strength of our economy, for all Vermont.
We need to make childcare available and affordable, because the lack of child care is one of the most important barriers holding back women from entering the workforce. And this isn't just a family issue. It's an economic issue for employers, too. Healthy and educated children become our future. They're are future workers, our taxpayers, our community leaders. Let's be there for them.
As the former secretary of transportation, it won't surprise you that I love building roads and bridges. But it isn't just because I love big trucks and asphalt and rebar. It's because I love what infrastructure does to our economy and our communities.
Balancing the $600 million budget of the state's second-largest agency and managing a workforce of 1,300 employees, I know that in today's fiscal environment we have to work more efficiently and creatively with our limited resources.
Our economy depends upon a safe transportation system. We've made our bridges safer. We've made our roads better. We've expanded our public transportation program. And, we focused on customer service, innovation and efficiency. And Vermont is now a national leader in innovative techniques to build our bridges faster, cheaper and smarter.
As I lead the agency, I also saw firsthand how infrastructure can actually grow our economy and help transform communities. I saw this, for example, in St. Albans, where I was this weekend. A $16 million public investment in infrastructure for water, sewer, wastewater and a new Main Street has combined with fantastic leadership in that city and leveraged $30 million in private sector investments. And in a short time, St. Albans has transformed from a city with empty store fronts to a vibrant downtown and a growing tax base and a civic pride you can feel on the streets.
As governor, I will expand strategic investments and public-private partnerships to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure in ways that renew our communities and help grow our economy.
If we’re going to grow our economy, we are also going to need to combat global climate change and face the risk that this poses to Vermont, our tourism industry, our maple syrup industry, and the increased risk of more Irenes.
As governor, I will focus on strengthening our resilience and investing in efficiency and green energy. And it's not just right to do that for our environment and our kids' future, it's for our economy, too. The clean energy sector in Vermont grew by over 6% since last year and now supports 16,000 jobs. These are good-paying jobs right here in Vermont.
So I approach challenges and problems by looking for opportunity. Why? Because no student or employee, no business or community ever got better by focusing on what's wrong. Instead, we succeed and we prosper when we find common road and build on our strengths.
There's a lot to be concerned about – the economy, jobs, drug addiction, health care – and some of you may wonder why I have hope. It's because I've had the extraordinary experience – the privilege – of seeing Vermont at its toughest times and also at its best.
The best of Vermont is when we come together. The best of Vermont is when we turn tragedy into opportunity. The best of her Vermont is when we're all in and we can make the impossible possible.
Thank you all so much for your support. Now let's get to work!
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