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  The Girl Next Door:  Senate Candidate Jane Kitchel

North Star Monthly - September 2004

From respected public administrator to baker extraordinaire, Jane (Beattie) Kitchel is, the woman you turn to if you've got a problem or a sweet tooth.

Her years of experience in government and interest in the well-being of Vermonters puts her in the front running for state senate; representing the district of Caledonia-Orange.  In November, Kitchel hopes to win one of the seats currently occupied by Republican incumbent; senators Julius Canns and Bernier. Mayo.

Kitchel makes her home in Danville village with her husband and son.  House cat ìSquirty" (named after a once undesirable habit) keeps an ornery eye out for visitors when Kitchel is weeding and working in her vegetable and flower gardens.  

Raised on a Danville dairy farm, Kitchel hails from a large family. As one of the older siblings, she says a strong work ethic was instilled at an early age.  "In a big family, everyone was expected to share and help out.  Growing up, my mother farmed full-time, so I often cooked meals for the whole gang." Kitchel recently baked two cakes for her nephew's wedding and the reception for 300 that followed.

Public life is a family trait. In the '60s, Kitchel's mother Catherine Beattie served in the state legislature; father Harold was a selectman in town; and her aunt, Alice Hafner, worked in child welfare.  ìPublic service is in our blood," says Kitchel.  She recently retired as secretary of human services after 35 years with the state agency.

Kitchef worked her way to the executive branch of state government, taking appointed positions under Governors Snelling, Kunin and Dean.  Though she is still a small town girl, her roots connect to a statewide web of agencies and policy makers.  She moves easily between worlds, fluent in the language of farmers, business owners and lawmakers.

Kitchel's political interest blossomed in her teens.  In high school, she worked on Philip Hoff's campaign for governor and attended President Kennedy's inauguration in Washington .  Former U.S. Senator from Vermont Ralph Flanders (remembered as the first to call for the censure of Joseph McCarthy) was a, personal friend of the family.  ìEven though I grew up in a small town," she says, "we still had an interest in the affairs of government.  I was exposed to at a young age.î

Kitchel graduated with a degree in history from a women's Presbyterian college in Pennsylvania .  Throughout her career in public service, Kitchel says she focused on achievement and never felt limited by gender.  "I had strong female role models, so I never felt any hesitation about pursuing my interests."

Those who know her say Kitchel's not one to talk about her contributions.  But, whether it's organizing fundraisers for the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium; cooking the Easter Breakfast at her church; or stocking the salad bar at the Danville Fair with vegetables from her garden, the community at large benefits.

She is an advocate for keeping smaller schools intact and functioning as an integral part of the community.  ìSchools bring the generations together," she says, "and people genuinely take pride in the kids and their success.  But schools don't exist in a vacuum.  It takes group effort to make students feel included and valued in the community with sponsored activities after school and recreational programs.

It's worth investing in kids by sharing time with them and showing we care.  Supportive communities foster successful people, but we still have a lot of work to do with our youth," Kitchel says.

As secretary of the Danville chamber of commerce, she actively supports opportunities for small business.  "Local businesses are the cornerstone of' vibrant communities. Danville is a model for others that are working to revitalize their village centers.  Take Groton ; it's wonderful to see what's happening there.  It's a perfect example of how we can preserve historical buildings and make them economically viable at the same time."

Under Governor Dean, Kitchel worked on healthcare initiatives targeting children, underinsured adults and seniors. She designed the plan to overhaul the agency of human services.  In addition, Kitchel is credited with reforming Vermont 's welfare program to a system that has replaced long-term welfare dependence with job training.

An issue closest to her heart, is affordable health coverage for all and the availability services that would allow seniors and people with disabilities to stay at home and in their communities.  Kitchel remembers the communal effort it took to keep her father at home, and she understands the need to provide services for caregivers so more seniors can maintain their independence and age with grace.

Kitchel and her campaign canine, Sally, continue their upbeat, energetic pace by getting out and meeting people.  My goal is to meet as many voters as possible.  Iím doing my best, but this district does present a challenge by the shear size of it.

With lawn signs popping up like mushrooms and momentum building toward November, Kitchelís spirits are high, and her sentiments straightforward:  ìGood luck to all, and may the best man (or woman) win."

óSource:  The North Star Monthly.  September 2004, Vol. 16, Number 5.  Page 15.