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Shumlin Appoints Kathy Hoyt To Fill Seat Vacated by Cheney

Norwich — Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday appointed Kathy Hoyt, a veteran Democrat with high-level Statehouse experience, to fill a vacant House seat representing Norwich, Thetford, Sharon and Strafford.

“Kathy will hit the ground running,” Shumlin said in a statement. “She will bring a clear understanding of budgeting, taxes, human services needs, employment issues, and education, among other current issues facing Vermont.”

The 71-year-old Hoyt previously served as chief of staff to both Gov. Madeleine Kunin and Howard Dean, and also as Dean’s secretary of administration, the only woman to have held the top Cabinet post.

She is replacing Margaret Cheney, a Norwich Democrat whom Shumlin appointed this week to the Public Service Board.

Hoyt, who served on a three-member Blue-Ribbon Tax Structure Commission that recommended reforms to the state’s tax system in 2011, said she would enjoy ending her career in public service in the Vermont House, where her late husband, Norrie, also once served.

“It would be wonderful being in the Legislature, because I’ve never done that. I’ve done all these other jobs,” Hoyt said. “I think I can be helpful and make a good contribution.”

A North Carolina native who holds a master’s degree in sociology from University of North Carolina, Hoyt first moved to Vermont in 1968 and worked in several jobs in state government before playing a senior role for Kunin and Dean.

“I think it’s a wonderful appointment. Kathy has been an outstanding manager in state government, and she knows it inside out,” Kunin said last night. “She’ll probably be the most highly qualified legislator coming in.”

Hoyt will be in a two-seat district also represented by state Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford.

Under state law, Shumlin could have sought nominees from Vermont’s political parties for Cheney’s open seat, but also had the option of a direct appointment. He chose the latter course, citing Hoyt’s experience and standing in the Upper Valley.

“In this case, Kathy’s professional background, her close ties to her district and her long track record of public service to the state of Vermont make her the ideal legislator,” Shumlin said.

Hoyt said she intends to run for a full-term for the district in 2014.

Her husband, who had also served as Vermont commissioner of taxes, died in early August after a long period of declining health, and Shumlin attended a memorial service for him at the Hoyts’ home last weekend.

Hoyt said Shumlin sounded her out about her interest last week and then on Monday, she said she was interested, recalling how much her husband had enjoyed his House tenure more than three decades ago.

“People tell me people get along really well, and that there’s a lot of collegiality, and I think that would be delightful, particularly when you watch what is happening on the federal level,” Hoyt said.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.