Essex Democrats nominate Rey Garofano, Brian Shelden as state representative replacement

Brian Shelden and Rey Garafano
Brian Shelden and Rey Garafano were nominated by the Essex Democrats Dec. 16 for district 8-1’s state representative.  Garafano received the most votes and will be prioritized on the nomination form submitted to Gov. Phil Scott. He should announce his decision in the coming days.


ESSEX — Town residents in district 8-1 will soon be represented in the state legislature by a new face.

The Essex Democrats gathered Thursday night to nominate a replacement for State Rep. Marybeth Redmond (Chittenden 8-1), who announced last week she would be stepping down immediately due to health concerns.

Party members nominated Rey Garofano and Brian Shelden for the position. Because Garoano received 13 votes and Sheldon 9, her name will be given first to Gov. Phil Scott. Shelden’s will be listed second. Scott has the final say.

Whoever is chosen by the governor will serve until Jan. 4, 2023, when Redmond’s term expires. Should they wish to keep the position, they’d need to run for election on Nov. 8, 2022.

Shelden was nominated by Jim Bernegger, who cited Shelden’s leadership on Essex’s Economic Development Commission as proof that he can get things done.

Because he had been nominated, Shelden recused himself from leading the meeting, which he typically does as chair. Dawn Hill-Fleury ran the proceedings instead.

Garofano was nominated by Rachael Lizotte, who said Garofano is not only a good friend, but a passionate and hardworking person.

“Rey is dedicated to this community, and she is ensuring that all voices are heard,” Lizotte said.

Essex Democrats Dec. 16, 2021
The Essex Democrats gathered Thursday in the Essex Police Department’s conference room to to nominate a new state representative.

Before questions were taken from members, both nominees were given five minutes to explain why they are the right fit for the state legislature.

Shelden, an Essex High School alum and software consultant, told the group if selected, he would work to implement data-driven solutions for COVID-19, fight the climate emergency, enshrine the right to choose in the Vermont Constitution and keep public schools strong.

“Why do I want to represent Essex in Montpelier?” Shelden asked. “First and foremost, I am committed to extending Marybeth’s legacy of compassionate, empathetic leadership. I will bring my love for Essex and Vermont to the Statehouse to help create smart and realistic solutions for our entire community.”

Garofano said her experience as a Vermont state employee, an immigrant and as a mother to a child of color give her a unique and needed perspective. She immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in the 1980s and moved to Essex in 2011.

“I’ve been a volunteer and an organizer in Essex for over a decade, working in various capacities to promote equity and inclusion in and around Essex,” she said. “… I know that many in our community struggle with access to affordable housing, high healthcare costs, and earning a living wage. I will work hard on behalf of Essex to address these challenges in Montpelier.”

Essex Democrats Dec. 16, 2021

Rachel Lizotte and Dawn Hill-Fleury count the votes Dec. 16.

David Skopin asked the nominees to name their first and second priorities. Shelden said handling the COVID-19 pandemic and tackling climate change, while Rey said supporting public education and equity and fighting COVID-19.

Each also answered questions on Vermont’s education funding model, growing the state’s economy and tackling equity and inclusion.

When it came time to vote, party members living in district 8-1 were asked to write down one name. Garofano received the most votes and will be prioritized on the nomination form the Essex Democrats will submit to the governor.

Scott should announce his decision in the coming days.


Original article on The Essex Reporter can be found here: