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Barnard Area Legislator Faces Challenger

Hartford — State Rep. Teo Zagar, D-Barnard, will face a Republican challenger this year in the Windsor 4-1 district representing Barnard, Pomfret and the northwestern part of Hartford in the Vermont House.

And a newcomer is likely to be elected to the two-seat Windsor 4-2 district representing the rest of Hartford.

Republican Scott Woodward, 46, of Pomfret, who is challenging Zagar, said he would direct his attention toward solving the “funding problem” that faces many school districts today, and will work to come up with a way to sustainably fund the single-payer health care system.

“I plan to work on that and figure out how we are going to solve the funding problem without property taxes continuing to go up,” Woodward, who serves on the Pomfret Planning Commission, said on Monday.

Woodward, who described himself as an “old school Yankee Republican,” said he has the ability to work across party lines and devise a plan that is best for all Vermonters.

He said he will also pay close attention to the future of agriculture in the state, saying many farmers will soon retire which might lead to a change in the definition of farming in Vermont.

“What is going to happen next?” he asked, noting the road forward will need to be examined.

Woodward has served for over four years on the Vermont Family Division Rules Committee, which reviews proposals for changes in the rules of family proceedings and recommends changes to the Supreme Court, and was a captain in the Army in the 1990s.

He works as a private information technology consultant, and after earning a degree from Vermont Law School in 2012, has been working on cases in the state Environmental Court.

Zagar, 35, of Barnard, said he knows the “ropes and the rules” of the Statehouse after serving for three years, and “knows how to get things done.”

Zagar was elected to a two-year term in 2012 after being appointed in 2011 to fill a vacancy left by the death of state Rep. Mark Mitchell, D-Barnard.

Zagar said he has worked on a couple of “landmark” bills that were recently passed, such as the GMO labeling bill that will require labeling on foods produced with genetic engineering. If re-elected, Zagar said he would continue to work to expand economic development opportunities and job growth in Vermont.

“I just really have enjoyed ... working at that level to try and chart a course for the state,” Zagar said. “I feel like I have more work to do.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Sheila Vowinkel, D-Hartford, didn’t file for a second term in the two-seat Windsor 4-2 district she currently serves, covering the rest of Hartford, including White River Junction, Wilder, Hartford Village and the area south and east of Route 4 in Quechee.

But Democrat Gabrielle Lucke, 54, has stepped forward to fill her spot.

State Rep. Kevin Christie, 64, filed for the second seat, with plans to enter his third term in the Vermont House of Representatives this fall. Messages left for Christie, the chairman of the Hartford School Board, were not returned.

No Republicans are on the ballot, according to filings with the Hartford town clerk.

Vowinkel, a former counselor in the Hartford school system, recently moved out of town, thereby forfeiting her ability to run for a second term in the district. Vowinkel, 61, who moved to Hartland two weeks ago, plans to take a leave of absence from the political arena, with hopes of returning in some capacity down the road.

Vowinkel spoke highly of Lucke, who is running for her seat.

“Gabrielle is someone who I have worked with before in the schools and at Dartmouth,” Vowinkel said. “I am thrilled she will be able to do that and I think she brings a wealth of experience.”

Lucke, a former Hartford School Board member, said she hopes to keep Vermont thriving by working to expand health and educational opportunities. She said she would keep a keen eye on education reform as well as access to health insurance and addiction and treatment programs.

Not only does the state need a good, “strong” childcare system, but “we also need to take care of our senior citizens,” said Lucke, who was director of the health education program at Dartmouth College from 1994 to 2002.

Lucke said she chose to become a Vermonter in 2000 because of the quality of life Vermont offers.

She hopes to further that for others wanting to invest in the state.

“I really want us to be a ... state where we are taking care of our citizens well,” Lucke said. “Where we are really respecting and honoring and being inclusive for all who want to live here.”

Lucke currently serves on Second Growth’s Board of Directors and works part-time in Dartmouth College’s human resources department. She has also served as the director of Diversity, Training and Educational Programs with the college’s Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity, and formerly sat on various childcare boards throughout New England.

“I feel like this is a time where I can represent my community well and also make a contribution at the state level,” Lucke said.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.