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Hoyt ready for Statehouse role - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Hoyt ready for Statehouse role

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Kathy Hoyt Kathy Hoyt
MONTPELIER, Vt. -

"I love art work," said Rep. Kathy Hoyt, D-Norwich.

In her Norwich home, Hoyt collects art that makes her smile.

Reporter Kristin Carlson: So, you are drawn to bright pieces?

Kathy Hoyt: Bright pieces-- I am.

Kristin Carlson: Do you think you are a positive person?

Kathy Hoyt. I am.

But that sunny outlook was recently tested. Hoyt spent the last three years caring for her dying husband in their home. Norrie Hoyt passed away in August of congestive heart failure. He was 78.

Kristin Carlson: What is it like being in the house now?

Kathy Hoyt: It's better now that I changed it back from the hospital room.

Hoyt wasn't sure what was next for her. But then she got a call from Gov. Peter Shumlin asking her to serve in the Vermont House, filling a vacancy.

Kristin Carlson: In some ways was this an unexpected lifeline at the right moment?

Kathy Hoyt: I think-- I feel like it was.

The Democrat will be new to the Legislature, but not to politics. Hoyt was chief of staff to Gov. Madeleine Kunin and also Gov. Howard Dean, later becoming his administration secretary. She was the first woman to hold that powerful role in charge of making the governor's plans a reality and deciding how to spend state dollars.

Kristin Carlson: How would you describe Kathy's leadership style?

Former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean: Patient and tough.

Dean says Hoyt will probably know more than anyone else in the Legislature about state government. When he unexpectedly became governor after Richard Snelling died, one of Dean's first calls was to Hoyt.

"Her leadership is to inspire loyalty. She is such a terrific person herself and such a person who commands respect that she doesn't have to carry on or play games to get her way; she has the facts on her side," Dean said.

Kristin Carlson: So, do you think it is good for Vermonters that she will be in the House?

Former Vt. Gov. Jim Douglas: I do.

Praise coming from Republicans, too. Former Governor Jim Douglas was state treasurer when Hoyt served with Dean. Douglas says he worked well with Hoyt to bring down debt.

Kristin Carlson: What do you think she will bring to the Legislature?

Gov. Jim Douglas: A great deal of experience... I also think she brings the appropriate demeanor when politics is very polarized. And Kathy is the type of person who can reach across the aisle.

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Kristin Carlson: Given all of your knowledge in state government should lawmakers be intimidated by you?

Kathy Hoyt: No. I think most people know that I'm very approachable.

For her long resume, Hoyt has never held elected office.

Kristin Carlson: Do you think you have the governor's ear?

Kathy Hoyt: I think I do. He's a friend and that's really important.

Hoyt says she's socially liberal and financially responsible. She wants to get involved on tax policy and health care reform. For the first time she will be working as one of many after years of being the one to solve problems. Another first-- she's now a free agent, not pushing a governor's agenda.

Kathy Hoyt: I think I can be helpful in how to solve problems and do it from my point of view-- what Kathy Hoyt thinks about a particular program or issue.

Kristin Carlson: Is that going to feel liberating after all these years?

Kathy Hoyt: It is.

Kristin Carlson: Democrats have such a strong super majority that they can really do whatever they want there. Do you think that is good for Vermont?

Kathy Hoyt: I think it's always good for both parties to be listening.

Kristin Carlson: Do you think that is happening?

Kathy Hoyt: I don't know. That is what I'm fascinated to see.

Kristin Carlson: House Speaker Shap Smith wants the Legislature to have some oversight on Vermont Health Connect to figure out what went wrong and that it doesn't happen again. Do you think that's appropriate? Do you think that's a good idea?

Kathy Hoyt: I think it's good to know. I think people shy away too much from looking at what doesn't work. You have to learn from mistakes.

Her husband also believed in public service. He was a tax commissioner and served for nine years in the House in the same Norwich seat Hoyt now holds.

Kristin Carlson: What do you think your husband would think of all of this?

Kathy Hoyt: I think he would be thrilled. I really do. I think he was probably looking from above and seeing I was staying home more; I wasn't reaching out.

At 71, Hoyt is grateful for the chance to move forward and encourages other women dealing with loss to get involved.

"Don't rule yourself out just because you are alone again and don't avoid contact-- you have a lot of things to say," Hoyt advised.

It's not clear what committee Hoyt will serve on. She's interested in the Ways and Means Committee that's in charge of tax policy. But open positions on that committee are rare and very coveted, so that position is unlikely in a first term. House Speaker Shap Smith says he working on finding a spot that will use her skills.

Hoyt replaces Margaret Cheney who was appointed by Governor Shumlin to serve on the Public Service Board.

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