MONTPELIER – The number-two Democrat in the Vermont House has decided not to seek re-election.
House Majority Leader Lucy Leriche, from Hardwick, is departing politics after an eight-year tenure that included a one-term stint as head of the House Democratic caucus. Leriche said financial considerations figured heavily in what she called a “hard decision.”
“I gave it a lot of thought and I just decided that I really should be working for more money at this point in my life,” Leriche said. “My best earning potential years are flashing by me here, so I was feeling like I needed to get back to more of an income-producing life.”
Leriche, who has a background in affordable housing development, served as assistant majority under former majority leader Floyd Nease. Her own assistant, Rep. Willem Jewett, will look to succeed her now.
Leriche said the Ripton Democrat “will make a fine leader if he decides to run.”
House Speaker Shap Smith said Jewett “did a great job” as assistant majority leader, “and I think he would do a very good job as majority leader.”
“I would expect he’ll be out there seeking support,” Smith said.
Smith said that in Leriche, the House loses a steady leader with an informed perspective on the issues facing rural Vermont.
“I relied heavily on her as someone who could give me advice with regard to politics and policy,” Smith said Monday.
Smith said he relies on the majority leader to “quickly give me a sense of the pulse of the caucus, and has good connections with people inside the building – members of the Senate, members of the House, lobbyists, members of the administration.”
“I’m looking for that person to be my eyes and ears in building,” he said.
Leriche said she counts the creation of Catamount Health as among the most notable legislative accomplishments during her time in Montpelier.
“As I go around my district and talk to people who now have health insurance because of that effort, that has been very rewarding and gratifying,” she said.
She said the same-sex marriage law passed in 2009 is another point of pride.
“Having served at a time when we took on such a large civil rights issue as marriage equality and having a role in securing votes, that’s something I’m really proud of,” she said.
Jewett said he and Leriche were an effective leadership team, and that he hopes to serve as majority leader next year.
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