What was Alyssa’s experience with Emerge Vermont?
2019 was the year that Alyssa explored the prospect of running for office. After being encouraged by a number of people in the past to run, she connected with Jill Krowinski, our Executive Director, and learned more about the Emerge training programs. Later that year, she applied to the signature program—a six-month intensive training course. Although she was stepping out of her comfort zone, Alyssa embraced every part of the training program and graduated in the beginning of 2020.
Before, Alyssa struggled with thinking that she wasn’t qualified to run for office, but now she finds herself with a new attitude. “The training not only teaches you the skill to run a campaign, but the thing I got out of it the most was confidence. It gave me the confidence to know that running a campaign was something I could do and it was something that I could win,” Alyssa said.
Since completing her training last year, Alyssa is now an Emerge sister with an entire network of friends and constituents that she can rely on. One of her best friends is an Emerge Vermont alum, and the two of them supported one another as they both ran for office this past campaign season. Now in the State House, Alyssa works with Emerge alums in the Legislature and sees familiar faces everyday. She now represents Chittenden 8-3 as their State Representative with a confidence that her past self may have not believed.
What was the campaign trail like as a first-time candidate during COVID?
Alyssa’s training in the second half of 2019 and the very beginning of 2020 was all conducted in-person. The skills they learned were tailored to work for a traditional campaign season, but this year was anything but traditional. As a first-time candidate and as a candidate running during a global pandemic, Alyssa had to get creative on the campaign trail.
Instead of door-knocking and hosting events for her run for State Representative, Alyssa relied on phone calls, mailings, and social media to connect with voters. The work was extensive, and Alyssa received some very welcomed help from her Emerge network. Through her training days, Alyssa met a number of folks who endorsed her on the campaign trail, aided with fundraising, and helped to make phone calls to voters. One of those people was Helen Head, a current Emerge Vermont board member. After meeting just once at one of Alyssa’s training days, Helen was an extraordinary help and she made hundreds of phone calls to connect Alyssa with voters.
That sort of support from her Emerge network shows just how extensive the Emerge Sisterhood is, and with lots of hard work and dedication to her race Alyssa was elected as State Representative for Chittenden 8-3. She—along with a number of her Emerge sisters—is taking on the challenge of being a first-time legislature in an unprecedented year, but Alyssa is ready to face this House session with an open mind and an eagerness to learn about her role in the Legislature.
What has working in the Legislature been like so far?
Not surprisingly, Alyssa says that the experience of working as a State Representative in a virtual format has been difficult. There are so many new things to learn about the role and getting to know her constituents through a laptop screen is less than ideal. She admits that going from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting all day is exhausting and it does not provide the same experience that others before her were able to participate in. Veterans of the Legislature say they feel sorry for the folks who are navigating this new role in the age of Covid-19, but even so Alyssa is facing each day with a positive attitude.
“The first week was a whirlwind,” Alyssa said about the first week of House session. By the second week, she found her groove and began to feel settled into her new role. Now, Alyssa is looking forward to the weeks ahead and is dedicated to learning and absorbing everything she needs to know moving forward.
What committee is Alyssa serving on, and what does she hope to bring to that committee?
Alyssa is thrilled to have been assigned to the Healthcare committee because that’s what her expertise and professional career focus on. For the past 27 years, Alyssa has worked in health care administration for a large family practice in Chittenden County. She knows a great deal about the inner workings of the healthcare system, so her transition to serve on the House committee has been smooth.
Alyssa will bring loads of expertise, knowledge, and first-hand experience to her committee, but she admits that during this first year she is going to take the time to get to know her constituents, her position, and what is expected of a state legislator. “My role is to learn,” she said. She added, “It’s my time to figure out what I’m doing, figure out what the roles that everyone plays, and work hard in my committee to make sure I understand everything we’re discussing.”
Being an advocate for bills that are being proposed and honing in on small changes that can have large effects are Alyssa’s main focuses right now. Making those incremental changes have the potential to have big impacts on people’s lives, and Alyssa is trusting in the work that the thousands of legislators who have come before her have done in the State House.
What advice would Alyssa give to women who want to get involved in their community/state but don’t know where to start?
As a first-time candidate, Alyssa struggled with feeling that she was not “qualified” for her position. Even after winning her race and starting the House session, she admits that the feeling never really goes away. It is easy to compare yourself to others, and Alyssa knows that many women face this issue. However, through support from her friends, family, and peers, she found the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and run for office.
Alyssa advises others to do the same thing, and being an advocate for yourself is the most important thing to do to make that first step. Small victories are just as important as big ones, and as a mother who lost her son to suicide, Alyssa knows first hand just how important small victories are. When something so monumentally tragic happens in your life, everything stops. Getting out of bed most days is a struggle, but Alyssa found a way to be strong and continue to have small victories every day.
When she began the Emerge program, it forced her to make that leap even though it was uncomfortable. While she faced each training day with an underlying feeling of uneasiness, she admits that she walked away from each day smiling.
She tells people from first hand experience the following: you have a choice. You can choose to lay down or you can choose to get up everyday—and sometimes that’s enough—and do something. After her son passed, she decided to do something. Put poignantly she said, “Think about putting yourself out there and doing something you’re scared of. Everyday do one thing that you didn’t think you could do, and before you know if you’ve succeeded what was planted in the back of your head that you didn’t think you could accomplish.”
She challenged herself everyday to that same advice, and sure enough she’s achieved something that her past self might not have believed. Alyssa Black is a mother, a co-worker, and now a legislator who will never cease to get up and put in work everyday. Some days might be easier than others, but the fortitude that she approaches life with is something that should be admired by women who want to make a change—just like Alyssa has done.
To learn more about Alyssa, click here.
Emerge has one goal: To increase the number of Democratic women in office who are reflective of the incredible diversity of the Democratic party by recruiting, training and providing a powerful network.