Librarian running for state rep.

A librarian from Bailey/Howe will be running for a seat recently vacated by a UVM alumna.

Selene Colburn, a librarian at Bailey/Howe and Burlington City Council Member, said she made the decision to run after Kesha Ram ‘08 vacated her seat to run for lieutenant governor.

Ram, a Democrat, has held the seat since 2009.

Librarian,city council member and Vermont House of Represen- tatives candidate Selene Colburn is pictured April 8.
[/media-credit] Librarian, city council member and Vermont House of Representatives candidate Selene Colburn is pictured April 8.
“As someone who has been interested in the state House of Representatives, you do pay attention to when those seats open, as it may not be vacant again for another 10 to 20 years,” Colburn said on what motivated her to run. “I just thought that the timing was right for me to run.”

Colburn wants to use the state position to further advocate for developments that she has been working for as a Burlington City Council member, she said.

“I have come up against some things that are pretty hard to solve at a city level, so I feel that working at the state level would be very beneficial,” Colburn said.

Colburn has been an advocate for more available housing in Burlington for working and middle-class people. It is difficult to find real estate that is neither subsidized low-income nor expensive market-rate housing in Burlington, she said.

Colburn said she has also worked to decrease the amount of time landlords have to come into compliance with violations, something with which many Burlington residents and UVM students have issues.

“Right now, landlords have a lot of time to come into compliance when they’re in violation of some of our codes, and that’s great for a well-meaning landlord who genuinely didn’t know,” Colburn said. “But we have a lot of landlords who aren’t operating correctly in Burlington, and I think changes in our statutes that would create stricter rules would be beneficial.”

Along with quality of life issues, Colburn also has an interest in substance abuse issues, she said.

She has advocated to state senators and legislators for money to keep open Burlington’s needle exchange, a system of providing sterile syringes to drug users, as funding has been recently threatened.

Climate action is also a big part of her agenda. Colburn has supported a Vermont goal for districts to be carbon neutral by 2030, she said. She has been engaged with many UVM students and clubs that advocate for climate change awareness.

“My success in being able to move forward the conversation that we’re having around divestment wouldn’t have been able to happen without the support from students at UVM,” Colburn said. “It’s great to have a student constituency who is engaged in this issue.”

State Representative Kesha Ram showed her support both for Colburn’s campaign, saying that they have always worked well together.

Ram also commented on the role students can play in the election results, as the open seat’s district includes much of the UVM campus and surrounding area where upperclass students reside.

“It’s important that students ask questions and pay attention to their needs through politics. I think sometimes they don’t realize their potential as voters and as residents,” Ram said.

Ram was elected into the Vermont House of Representatives when she was 22, immediately after graduating from UVM, she said. She hopes students will pay attention to the issues surrounding the election and step forward to have their needs taken care of.

Ram said she expects other candidates to step forward within the coming weeks.

Colburn is the first to publicly announce interest in the open state representative seat in the Vermont Legislature, though she said she expects the Democratic Party of Vermont to choose a candidate to run against her.

Colburn said she doesn’t think the Republican Party will choose a candidate to run for the open seat.

“It’s pretty rare in our district for Republicans to run; the dynamic is Progressive and Democrat oriented,” she said. “It’s not unheard of, but I’d be surprised if a Republican stepped up for this one. It would certainly make things interesting.”

Republican Vermont State Representative Kurt Wright commented on the coming elections, saying that he did not know of any Republican candidates joining the race for Ram’s open seat.

The filing deadline for potential candidates ends at the end of May, Colburn said. State Legislature primaries will be held in early August, and elections will be held in November.