Following the eventful and exciting Town Meeting Day elections on March 3rd, 2020, we now take the time to reflect on the results and the victories we are celebrating here at Emerge Vermont. Months and months of work went into each and every campaign, and a lifetime of dedication and passion is what drives the candidates to continue with their work. That passion and enthusiasm was apparent during every second of my conversation with Jill Remick. Jill is an Emerge Vermont alumnae from the class of 2015, and she won her race on March 3rd for a three-year term on the Montpelier Roxbury Schoolboard. It was so interesting to hear about the factors that lead her to this new chapter in her career, and her goals in mind for what she can contribute—both as a mother and an expert in the field—to the education system.
A Vermont native, Jill went to university for journalism and writing. Her career started in reporting, and swiftly evolved into a role at the Agency of Education on the policy and communications side. Her 15-year career there included working with the media, following the positions of the legislature, and learning about the ins and outs of training at the statehouse. It was through that job where she met Emerge alumna Nicole Mace. Nicole told her all about the work she did through Emerge Vermont and this sparked an interest in Jill. Soon after, she enrolled in the 2015 signature program. Juggling a full-time job and raising a young child at the time of her training was no easy feat, but Jill acknowledged that her skills and qualifications from prior experiences could be beneficial to her community. I asked Jill about her favorite parts about the program, but also the parts that challenged her. She explained that speaking in front of a large crowd is something she’s completely comfortable with, but when it comes to voicing her ideas in a more intimate setting with people she knows and respects, it becomes more challenging. This is something she had to overcome in her training, but she took it with strides and actually ended up giving a speech to her graduating class at their graduation celebration. Her role on the school board requires a lot of communication skills—whether it be running events for parent groups or explaining her ideas and visions at meetings. Nevertheless, Jill has proven that practice and experience—albeit scary at times—is the best way to improve upon a skill and work past those fears. Through the Emerge Vermont training, participants are preparing themselves to one day run for an elected position. This process entails a number of skills and criteria, but one of the main components is campaigning. This includes asking strangers for support, making phone calls, and even going door to door in their communities to advocate for themselves. Jill admits that this was a big hurdle to overcome, and I think it is a telling reflection of one of the obstacles women face in politics. Women oftentimes feel pressure from society to be caregivers and to prioritize the needs of others over themselves. Jill admits that she had no issue advocating for her fellow Emerge sisters, but when it came to doing it for herself, the task became much more daunting. This is not an uncommon concern when it comes to women in politics. Many of the women I’ve spoken with over the past few months have voiced similar struggles about being an advocate for themselves. There are definitely double standards for women, and trying to find the balance between looking confident and being perceived as too aggressive is an unfortunate hurdle many women face. However, through strengthening a woman’s network and creating sisterhoods like Emerge, female empowerment is something that becomes a little easier.
As far as her roles on the school board, Jill is part of a team that develops and oversees the budget for the district. They also facilitate teacher contracts and the hiring of the superintendent. All of these factors directly affect the educational experience of the children of Montpelier. Jill’s involvement on the school board is not the result of an “agenda” or a want to control the day to day activities at her own child’s schools. Rather Jill’s background and past experiences make her an extremely valuable asset for the position, and she recognizes that she can contribute a number of insights during her time there. One of her main priorities is to be a voice for those who can’t run for elected positions, and with that comes being a representative for families without equal resources. Jill says that, frankly, it is expensive to live in Vermont. Even in a town like Montpelier, there are assumptions about the kind of resources that people have access to, but these assumptions can be misleading. By being an advocate for families and students who do not meet those assumptions, Jill keeps an “eyes on the prize” mentality for helping to ensure an equal playing field for the education of all students. Although Jill plans to be fully engaged in her newly elected position, she still has a full time job as the Director of Property Taxes for the state of Vermont. Her career puts her in touch with her community, and hearing the thoughts and concerns of taxpayers translates to a better understanding of the needs of her community. With all of these skills, Jill’s contributions to the Montpelier Roxbury Schoolboard are sure to be plentiful and immensely valued.
In looking towards the future, Jill says she sees herself one day running for state representative or senator. Like all things in life, there is never a “right” time to make a jump like this, but Jill is keeping an open mind to possibly extending her political involvement to the state level. We here at Emerge look forward to seeing how Jill will continue to enhance the towns of Montpelier and Roxbury, and how her contributions could one day translate into a path at the statehouse. Jill is someone who speaks with confidence and from the heart. She is someone who is able to communicate her message thoughtfully and poignantly, and although our conversation only spanned about 30 minutes, I got the sense that Jill gives 100% to whatever task she takes on—and that’s a quality I greatly admire in someone in her position.
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.