Young Vermonters in Politics
by Emma Marc-Aurele
Chief of Staff for Phil Scott, Age 32
Montpelier resident Rachel Feldman did not always live in Vermont. In fact, it was a summer camp, Farm and Wilderness in Plymouth, her parents sent her to when she was nine that sparked her love for the great green state of Vermont.
The now chief of staff for Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott explains how those five years of summer camp changed her life, “It was the first time this nerdy kid who got teased in school, found friends who accepted me for who I am.”
So there was no hesitation when Feldman’s mom moved to Moretown in 2006 that she would follow her after graduation from Northwestern University. A month later, she wasted no time in entering the world of journalism.
She recalls, “I walked into the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and WCAX-TV cold, with just my resume in hand and nothing else to go on besides the name Marselis Parsons (the late WCAX-TV anchor), and both organizations hired me. I’ve been stuck in Vermont ever since.”
Rachel Feldman entered the political sphere in 2008 when MTV hired her as a freelance Vermont reporter for its citizen journalism project “Street Team 08.”
The original Vermont reporter, now-Senator Dustin Degree (R-Franklin), accepted a position with the then-Governor Jim Douglas and could not continue the beat. When MTV offered the young journalist the job she got to know Degree quite well.
“Through my friendship and subsequent work with Dustin, I met a number of people working in public service, and through those friendships, I connected with my predecessor in the lieutenant governor’s office, the irreplaceable Nancy Brooks. When she was looking for a replacement, I got a phone call and interviewed with Lieutenant Governor Scott. I started working for him less than three weeks later.”
Feldman’s position under Scott has allowed her to embrace Vermont politics at its finest. She mentions how over the years Scott has helped her to expand her political skills and understand the state and the people who live in it.
She explains, “In my three years working for Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott, I’ve learned more about Vermonters than I ever did before -- because while my past career in journalism taught me to hear Vermonters, it was working for Lieutenant Governor Scott that taught me the importance of truly listening to each and every person.”
Over the years Rachel has realized that working in and for Vermont means putting community first. The size of Vermont allows politicians to talk to so many people that in a larger state would be impossible.
Feldman ultimately says, “Vermont feels like one big small town, and when you build your reputation on truly caring for the people you serve, every Vermonter feels like your neighbor.”
As for young students who some day dream of stepping foot into politics, Rachel Feldman advises, “It really boils down to three things: Dedication, loyalty and hard work.”
Delegate of the National Republican Convention, Age 17
Jace Laquerre was an elected delegate to the National Republican Convention at only 17 years old. He first stood as a Rand Paul supporter, and even got involved in the Rand Paul campaign, before the candidate dropped out.
Laquerre then switched his allegiance to Ted Cruz. Regardless of where this young Republican’s support stands though, one thing is for sure: his knowledge for politics; his eager willingness to get involved in today’s political discourse; and his ability to eloquently speak to the public about difficult issues proves truly remarkable for a senior in high school.
Jace first got into politics when he met Senator Paul at a fundraiser in Essex in 2015. He says, “His message of liberty and limited government inspired me and my generation to get involved in the political process. I then got involved with Rand’s presidential campaign and was mentored by Representative Paul Dame of Essex. This opened many doors for me in different areas in the world of politics. These principles of liberty Senator Paul spoke of defined my ideology that I believe I will retain for the rest of my life.”
Vermont’s primarily liberal population makes Jace’s situation even more unique. Most of the younger demographic within the state tends to be firm libertarians, but Jace’s views stands with the Republican Party. He feels that the problem with the right-wing party is its inability to attract the younger crowd.
Laquerre explains, “I am actively working to fix this. Senator Paul’s message of liberty attracted many young people and other groups that don’t typically vote Republican. It is clear that if the GOP would embrace these principles that the problem could be fixed. So, to represent young people and give them a voice, I decided to take this message to the RNC to move the Republican Party into the future.
Outside of his work in politics, Jace Laquerre is a normal teenage Vermonter who enjoys hunting and fishing with his grandfather as well as participating in sports at his high school in Colchester.
He plans on attending college after graduating Colchester High School and maybe one day running for office.
One thing Jace Laquerre believes strongly in is getting other young people involved in politics no matter which side they take.
He says, “I encourage all young people to get involved in politics, no matter what side they are on. It can be intimidating walking into a room and being the youngest one, and some people are more welcoming then others. Find a mentor with similar beliefs to yours to teach you the ropes. Don’t be deterred, and stand up for what you believe in. Don’t let people tell you that you are too inexperienced to do something and don’t listen to people that tell you to wait your turn. Your turn is now