Havah Armstrong Walther, a 2020 Emerge alumna, has been a community activist for twenty years. Now, she’s ready to bring her skills to the State House to represent the Windsor 4-1 district.
“It just made sense to be able to not just listen to all the legislation that’s going out and wait for something good, but to step in and start helping people create something good,” Armstrong Walther said in an interview with Emerge Vermont.
Armstrong Walther has been on the other side of policy work before: she serves on the Governor’s Developmental Disability Council and Policy Committee, and has dedicated many years to making policies accessible for all Vermonters. She is an educational advocate with Upper Valley Advocacy, and works with the Vermont court system to assist with communication for people with disabilities. She is also a business consultant with Start Change, a non-profit organization that helps other nonprofits develop and grow. Due to her career background, Armstrong Walther has the unique insight into several areas of work and life in Vermont.
“As a nonprofit professional and someone who works in that nexus of where education, government, community activism and volunteerism work together…I understand a lot of the gaps, and how people in the community are falling through the cracks, and where they’re falling through the cracks,” Armstrong Walther said.
Armstrong Walther’s main goal as a legislator is to ensure that policies and services are fully accessible to all Vermonters when they are made; cracks do not need to be repaired if they are never there in the first place.
“If something is fully accessible, nobody needs an accommodation to access it,” Armstrong Walther said. “The most important part about creating something is creating it so that it is highly accessible and fair to everybody.”
The most important part about creating something is creating it so that it is highly accessible and fair to everybody.
Vermonters with special needs and disabilities are highly affected by every policy area: transportation, healthcare, education, housing, and addiction serve as some prominent examples. Systematic protections are more essential than ever during this pandemic; many people with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting the virus, and at a higher risk of mortality. By standing up for Vermonters with disabilities, Armstrong Walther is working towards systems-level changes that benefit all Vermonters. By protecting the most vulnerable, everyone is safer.
“[It’s] a really a high priority for me to be sure that as society opens back up, people who are staying at home for health and safety reasons are protected, and still have access to the things they need,” Armstrong Walther said.
Immunocompromised Vermonters, seniors, and those with underlying medical issues need to be able to access telemedicine, which is a method used by doctors and therapists to meet virtually with patients and clients. Although Medicaid governance has required reimbursements to health care providers for telemedicine costs, without new state-level legislation, this funding will not last forever.
“[COVID funding is] going to end at some point because it’s part of a federal package. That has to continue,” Armstrong Walther said. She emphasized the importance of this funding especially for students with disabilities. “If we want to protect special education recipients in Vermont, we have to make sure that we continue to authorize insurance expenditures for our medicaid recipients who need to stay at home, [and] who aren’t going to be at school…”
As Armstrong Walther puts it, the needs of students in special education programs goes beyond what an internet connection can offer.
“The most important thing is being able to come up with a way for parents to be able to protect their kids and family members at the level of health safety needed for their household. ” Armstrong Walther said. “We’re going to have to really support the heck out of teachers right now as we figure this all out.”
We’re going to have to really support the heck out of teachers right now as we figure this all out.
COVID is affecting every aspect of life in Vermont; including campaigning. Armstrong Walther has to be creative to engage with voters.
“What’s worked best for me is that when I’m driving through my district, I’m looking for people who are out in their yard. I’m literally stopping by people that I see, and doing as close as I can to old-fashioned campaigning,” Armstrong Walther said. She hands out cards with her information and platform to voters. She also got positive feedback from voters after putting out a Facebook ad.
Armstrong Walther says that Emerge helped her in preparing to run a campaign.
“It was the best overview I could have had,” Armstrong Walther said. She is grateful for the connections she has made with so many other women running for office, and that they can share ideas and strategies.
Emerge is so grateful to have someone like Armstrong Walther running for office. Her expertise in education, disability advocacy, and nonprofit work is truly outstanding, and has changed Vermont for the better. We cannot wait to see what Armstrong Walther will do next!
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.
To support more women like Havah Armstrong Walther, contribute to Emerge Vermont today!