Burlington's own Mayor Miro Weinberger

First, can you give us a little background about yourself and your history with the state? I love Vermont! I grew up in rural Hartland, Vermont, the son of a kindergarten teacher and an architect. I am a product of Vermont public schools, including graduating from Woodstock Union High School. During my junior year, I played second base on my high school baseball team and won a state championship at Centennial Field. I traveled outside of Vermont for college earning a B.A. at Yale University, where I double majored in American Studies and Studies in the Environment. After a few years working for US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and on the reelection campaign of US Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA), for Habitat for Humanity in both Georgia and Florida, and for then-Vermont Senate Minority Leader Peter Shumlin in a successful effort to win a Democratic majority in the State Senate, I went to graduate school at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where I earned a Master of Public Policy and Urban Planning. After school, I worked for the Greyston Foundation in Yonkers, NY for nearly four years, where I managed inner city affordable housing and community development projects. I had the good fortune to meet Stacy Sherwat while dropping off a friend’s child in a pre-school classroom where Stacy was teaching. We married in 2000 and now are the parents of first grader Li Lin Bess Weinberger. In 2002, I returned home to Vermont, settling with Stacy in beautiful Burlington. Until my election as Mayor of Burlington in March of this year, I was the co-founder and partner of the Hartland Group, a real estate development and consulting company committed to creating great neighborhoods in which to live and work. In nine years, the Hartland Group built over 200 affordable and market rate homes in Vermont and New Hampshire, consisting of over $40 million of development. I was elected Mayor of Burlington on March 6, 2012, 10 days after my 42nd birthday. I believe that my extensive campaign use of social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, played a significant role in my decisive election win. I was sworn in on April 2, 2012 and have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to serve Burlington for the last five months. I have been focused on putting the City’s finances in order, moving forward stuck and stalled municipal projects, and rebuilding trust in City Hall after a difficult period in the City’s history. Why is the political arena right for you? The Burlington Mayor’s job is the perfect place for me to be working and contributing right now. At this point in time, Burlington faces serious financial challenges, the community has become a very expensive place to live as a result of a lack of new housing, and progress has been stalled on our spectacular waterfront for far too long. My experience as an affordable housing developer, managing budgets and moving complex projects to completion has the potential to help Burlington overcome its most pressing challenges. What is special or unique about being a politician in Vermont/Burlington? The scale of Vermont and Burlington allows for a level of engagement between the public and office holders that simply isn’t possible in larger communities. One of my favorite parts of the job is sitting down on a weekly basis with 3-12 constituents who come and drop in at a “open coffee” I have in a bagel shop. Often when I attend a City Council meeting or some other type of Burlington public hearing, I have the sense that I am witnessing and participating in democracy in one of its truest forms. What can you say to the high school students of today who have the similar aspiration of serving the state of Vermont? Start participating now. There are so many opportunities in Vermont communities to serve on civic boards and committees. Through this volunteer involvement, you will move your community forward, gain valuable experience and relationships, and develop a better sense of whether your true passion does lie in the public arena. Being an election year, can you speak to the importance of voting? My first public election seared into me the deep truth that in a democracy every vote matters. To become Mayor, I had to win a four-way caucus to become my party’s nominee for Mayor. I’ll never forget the evening of Sunday, November 13, 2011 when, after six hours of speeches and votes, the third round of voting resulted in a dead tie between me and one other candidate: 540 votes to 540 votes. The individuals who showed up and stayed that day and who came back a month later for a decisive fourth round each had a major impact on the future of our community. Every vote counts, and elections matter.