An interview with the Progressive Party candidate for Ward 1

Staff Report

After 30 years of endorsement from Burlington Progressive Party, Burlington’s Ward One city councilor has lost the party’s backing to a new comer.

Zoraya Hightower earned the Progressive Party’s nomination in December 2019, taking it from incumbent Sharon Bushor. Hightower is also competing against UVM senior Jillian Scannell.

Hightower said she doesn’t have a strong interest in politics; she’s interested in policies and cities. 

“I always had a particular interest in cities and their ability to really move how we use energy, how we interact with each other, how we use water, how we consume food, where its coming from,” Hightower said. 

When Hightower moved to Burlington to take a job as an international development professional, she said she wanted to be involved in local change and sits on the developmental review board for the city. 

“I just decided to make sure that I’m involved in local government,” she said. “That has mostly been at volunteer levels and things like the development review board, or just staying active in my neighborhood planning assembly.” 

Hightower said she is passionate about housing issues, particularly housing affordability and location, she said. 

Ward one encompases UVM’s Central and Trinity campuses which feature 11 residence halls. 

“I think housing resonates with everyone,” Hightower said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a homeowner or if you’re a renter. Housing affordability in Burlington is huge.” 

Hightower is the only candidate in the Ward One race without a direct connection to UVM, as she got her undergraduate degree from the University of Tulsa and then attended Yale University for graduate school. 

When asked about her interactions with UVM students, Hightower said she has a good understanding of UVM issues. 

“I’ve obviously have had roommates and friends and ex-boyfriends, who were students at UVM,” she said. At a more formal level however, Hightower believes that her interactions working on the neighborhood planning assembly and development review board have given her opportunities to interact with members of the UVM community.

Elections for Burlington City Council are March 3. 

A Jan. 22 Cynic article claimed Ward 1 candidate Zoraya Hightower did not respond for comment. However, there was not sufficient effort made to reach out to Hightower’s campaign. The Cynic apologizes to the Hightower campaign for this mistake.