On the opening day of the Session, I had the honor of nominating Mitzi Johnson to be Speaker of the House for this, the 75th, Biennium. The following is the statement I presented on the House Floor to nominate her:
Mr. Secretary, I rise to nominate the member from South Hero, Representative Mitzi Johnson, to be our Speaker of the House.
Representative Johnson has the experience and skills to lead this deliberative body to a successful biennium.
Her life experiences are certainly wide ranging. She majored in environmental science and international development at the University of Vermont. After graduation, she moved to South Hero, working for years at the Allenholm Farm. She also taught piano and ran her own business making and selling silk scarves. For two decades, she was an EMT on the South Hero Rescue Squad.
She became a member of the Vermont House in 2003, serving on the Agriculture Committee for four years and then the Appropriations Committee, eventually becoming its chair. In 2013, she earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Representative Johnson brings to the House a diverse background, from practical to scholarly. And, of course, she was Speaker of the House in the last biennium, learning her new role at the same time the State had new leaders in the Senate and the Governor’s office.
As we saw last biennium, Representative Johnson is a consistently effective leader.
There are leaders who operate with the idea that leadership means convincing the organization to follow the leader’s vision. Other leaders operate with the idea that leadership means inspiring the organization to face its problems and take advantage of its opportunities. That second idea – mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges – is what defines Representative Johnson’s brand of leadership.
To identify problems and opportunities, she relies on clear values that orient her and give her focus. But to find solutions, she also relies on all of us. She is willing to listen. In fact, she is a great listener. She encourages all of us to be part of the process of identifying and solving problems to make Vermont a better place to live.
She adapts to different views, new information, and changing circumstances. Although she is open and flexible, she also helps this body maintain its focus on the tough questions. She does so, not with a heavy hand, but with intelligence and encouragement. She embodies this inspirational saying from Mahatma Gandhi: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
We are lucky here in Vermont. We are lucky in the walls of this grand State House. Here, we talk to each other, we work together to solve the difficult issues, we are civil and respectful. Representative Johnson admirably sets the tone for this discourse.
Please join me in electing Representative Mitzi Johnson as our next Speaker of the House.