ARLINGTON — Erynn Hazlett has had enough of the state's leadership and has decided that the best way to do something about it is to run for the state's top job and start fixing things.
Hazlett, a self-described millennial, is an 11-year veteran of the Vermont National Guard, and said that her vision is just what the state needs in the governor's office.
Running as an independent for governor, Hazlett is tough to pigeonhole and, instead, prefers to compare herself to Sen. Bernie Sanders and the state itself as someone who stands out against the norms of the two-party system in her campaign literature.
"Vermont deserves a leader who stands out in the crowd because Vermont is a standout state," she said. "Year after year we prove to our nation we are unique, yet our politics internally continue to be stagnant because of the two-party system. We've elected an Independent who has shown he can inspire a nation. It's time to elect an independent to inspire our state."
Hazlett touts her military service as one of her top qualifications.
Her training and leadership with ethics, morals and loyalty to "defending the American way of life," she learned in the service, she said, will help her lead the state with those same qualities.
Hazlett's time in the guard has been difficult, she said.
In addition to active duty status in Vermont and Afghanistan, Hazlett said she suffered physical and sexual abuse in the guard at the hands of a superior.
It's an accusation she said was eventually bore out as valid and she said the perpetrator didn't suffer any real punishment.
"The result of that assault was a visual loss of rank, though no paperwork was ever formally processed, and administratively, he never lost rank, pay, or had the findings attached to his record," Hazlett said. "I am running because I would like the opportunity to sign a bill into law that helps bring morals, integrity, and transparency into the investigative process of military sexual trauma, diversity trauma, and studies the longevity of women's military careers."
She said she is resigning her position in the guard to run for office.
"To run for governor, I've resigned from my Active Duty position within the Vermont Army National Guard and forfeited up to a year's worth of paid medical leave benefits I am eligible for through the medical discharge process from active service because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from combat trauma, military sexual trauma, and workplace harassment," she said.
Beyond the guard, Hazlett said she started a sole proprietorship media company, MyOpus Media, which produced film projects that won acclaim in the New York film scene.
She said she was part of the development of The Lightning Jar, an entrepreneurial hub in Bennington, and helped with fundraisers for the Manchester Skate Park, foreseeing the magnitude and beauty of what a state of the art skate park would bring to the Manchester community.
But running for governor isn't about what she has done, but what she will do.
She said that the current fight against the coronavirus means the state needs to be looking now for ways to offset the loss of tax revenue and she knows just the thing: tax and regulate marijuana.
"Vermont's budget needs a dramatic stimulus," Hazlett said. "Taxing marijuana will give Vermonters a surplus to cover the loss of tax revenue from COVID-19."
She said it's time to pass a tax and regulate bill.
"Vermont has stalled long enough," she said. "The future is green and if Vermont is to thrive in the next century, putting the law where our mouths are is the next step."
But to show her true independence, she also supports opening the state to off-road recreation as neighboring states have done.
"Rural hobbies are the next recreational economy for Vermont," Hazlett said. "Dirt bikes, side-by-sides, and four-wheelers deserve the opportunity to ride competitively without leaving the state."
She supports bringing hunter education and homestead gardening programs into the schools, along with training for forestry and heavy equipment operation.
But as soon as you've pegged Hazlett as a closet conservative, she brings up universal income to help struggling seniors stay in their homes and live a dignified life as well as combine benefits for lower-income Vermonters into a single payment system cutting costs of regulatory programs that oversee various programs like food assistance, housing, health care and cash assistance.
She also wants to fight racial injustices now and for the past transgressions.
She wants to diversify Vermont's overwhelming whiteness advocates for reparations and calls for land grants for Black people.
She said a recent trip to Chicago, she saw the riots first-hand.
"I felt the anger and the passion within the city during the first day of protests and stayed through the night of the BLM riots," Hazlett said. "The helicopters, the explosions, the gunfire, all felt familiar to me. I was in a war zone within my country. I was surrounded by sadness, anger, frustration, and fear. We need to listen to Black Americans."
She said she would get rid of the state giving people $10,000 to move to Vermont.
"I want to sponsor five Black American or Hispanic American families from outside Vermont to relocate into Vermont," Hazlett said, saying she would advocate for deeding them land and a home, and would do the same for three Black or Hispanic families currently living in Vermont who will be selected to receive the same incentive package.
"Vermont will be the first state in the Union to take steps towards reparations to the lineage of black Americans whose opportunity for prosperity has been systematically desecrated," Hazlett said.
She said "her Vermonters" are those who live here and stay here against the hardships while claiming they are going to leave for warmer climates but never do.
But, she said Vermont doesn't have to be a place where you need three jobs to make it.
"My late grandfather, Alan Hess, sold real estate in Vermont for 40 years," she said. "He told me growing up, `No one local knew we were poor until the out of staters started moving in.'"
She said her son is a seventh-generation Arlingtonian and she'll keep fighting.
"I will lead the legislature, the citizens, and service members of the Green Mountain State with courage and resilience — it's all I know," Hazlett said.
Contact Darren Marcy at email@example.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.