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Redistricting slices off southwest Williston

New House district ‘Chittenden-8’ groups about 1,500 Williston residents on the southwest side of town with about 2,700 South Burlington residents. Map from legislature.vermont.gov.

1,500 residents placed in new House district with South Burlington

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Because of Williston’s population growth, reflected in the 2020 census, its representation in the Legislature has changed. 

Gov. Phil Scott signed new legislative districts into law on April 6. The changes will be in effect starting with this August’s party primaries. 

Williston has roughly 2,000 more residents than it did when legislative districts were last considered after the 2000 census. The growth means that its existing House district — with two at-large legislators elected to represent the whole town — is too populous, and a portion of town needed to be sliced off and grouped with a neighboring municipality in a new legislative district.

“We did not have a choice. There was no way to stay one district with two representatives,” Town Clerk Sarah Mason said.

The town’s Board of Civil Authority held meetings this spring to give input to the Legislative Apportionment Board, which was working under the guidance of the Vermont Secretary of State. The local sentiment was to group a portion of Williston with a fellow Champlain Valley School District municipality, such as Hinesburg. Ultimately, though, the maps the Legislature approved and Gov. Scott signed into law created the “Chittenden 8” House district, which groups about 1,500 Williston residents on the southwest side of town with about 2,700 South Burlington residents.

“They picked a quadrant that they thought would be the cleanest way to hack off part of our people,” Mason said. “There are not a lot of ties to South Burlington socially or community-based … but that’s what they decided on and that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

The rest of town (about 8,500 people) is in the Chittenden 2 district and will continue to elect two House representatives. The two seats are currently held by Rep. Jim McCullough and Rep. Erin Brady. 

Two House members will represent district ‘Chittenden-2,’ which includes about 8,500 of Williston’s roughly 10,100 residents.
Map from legislature.vermont.gov.

The line separating the two districts divides portions of Oak Hill Road, Old Creamery Road and Route 2A down the middle, so that people living across from each other on opposite sides of the street will be in different legislative districts. Mason plans to send postcards alerting residents in the new Chittenden 8 district of the change. 

She expects there to be some hard feelings, especially at the polls on election day.

“It will be confusing for people,” Mason said. “Some people will be up in arms and they’ll feel alienated and probably upset and wonder why they can’t vote for (familiar candidates) … They’ll probably have to vote for someone from South Burlington who they don’t even know.

“It’ll be an adjustment, but this is how things will be for the next 10 years.” 

Williston remains whole on the Senate side, but is losing three Senate seats in the new law. The town had been represented together with the rest of Chittenden County by six at-large senators. The new law creates a “Chittenden Southeast District” that includes Williston, Richmond, Hinesburg, St. George and several other neighboring municipalities, which will be represented by three senators. 

Sen. Ginny Lyons is the only Williston resident among Chittenden County’s current six-pack of senators. The reduced district size will mean fewer constituents, and perhaps a sharper focus on the constituents the county’s senators will still represent.

Lyons is planning to run for election this year in the new Southeast Chittenden County district.

“It will be a different dynamic,” she said. “It will allow for me to focus more on those areas. I very much look forward to that.”

The town clerk’s office will begin accepting petitions from candidates to be on the August primary ballots on April 25 with a May 26 deadline. Early voting starts in June.  

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