BRATTLEBORO -- The Windham- Bennington-Windsor state House district will have a new representative next year, and there will be a familiar name on voters' ballots this November.
State Rep. Tim Goodwin, an independent elected in 2012, announced Thursday that he won't seek another term in a district that consists of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall.
Also on Thursday, the Jamaica resident who formerly held that seat - Oliver Olsen - said he will campaign to replace Goodwin. Olsen served in the House as a Republican from 2010 to 2012, but he'll run this time as an independent.
Goodwin immediately endorsed Olsen, and the two men traded compliments.
"Oliver did a great job as our representative and will continue to do great work for our district," the Weston resident said.
Olsen said Goodwin "has served our community well. His levelheaded, calm approach to assessing difficult issues has earned the respect of his colleagues in Montpelier."
Goodwin, who is a veteran, a retired federal employee and a certified public accountant, won his first House term in November 2012 by defeating fellow independent Emmett Dunbar of Londonderry.
Goodwin is a member of the House Judiciary Committee. That group of lawmakers has been at the center of recent, high-profile debates on issues such as the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana; the administration of lethal prescriptions for the terminally ill; and the state's struggles with opiate addiction.
"We have a good balance of people with a variety of life experiences on the Judiciary Committee, and I have enjoyed working with each and every one of them," Goodwin said.
This session, Goodwin has commented on his committee's involvement in topics including custody rights for children conceived by sexual assault; amendment of perpetual conservation easements; and commitment of a criminal defendant who has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.
He also has introduced a bill that seeks to cushion the blow of Vermont Yankee's pending closure via tax incentives for former plant employees who are starting new businesses. Additionally, the legislation proposes tax breaks for local businesses hiring recent college graduates and for first-time home buyers in Windham County.
Goodwin said he also has been "a staunch defender of school choice, which remains under constant attack in Montpelier."
But in Thursday's announcement of his pending departure from the Legislature, Goodwin said he now wants to spend more time "on activities closer to home." He is a Weston lister, a member of the town's Board of Civil Authority and the town's representative to Windham Regional Commission.
It is unclear how many candidates the three-county House district may attract. The earliest that major-party candidates can file a petition for the Aug. 26 primary election is May 12.
As an independent, Olsen won't have to worry about that primary. But he says that's not the reason that he chose to run this year with no political affiliation.
As a legislator, "I had a reputation as being very much a moderate centrist," Olsen said. "It's really a good representation of who I am. I considered myself throughout my tenure as independent and open-minded."
Olsen was appointed to the House in January 2010 by then-Gov. Jim Douglas to fill a seat that held been held by Republican Rick Hube, who died the previous month.
Olsen subsequently won a full, two-year term by beating Democrat Claire Trask of South Londonderry. In October 2011, he said he would not seek another term in 2012, citing family and career obligations.
Time away from the Legislature has allowed Olsen to reconsider that stance, and he says his personal life is "a little less-hectic" now. Still, Olsen acknowledges the difficulties of being a professional - he works for a software company - and serving in a parttime legislative body.
"It's very challenging for working Vermonters to serve in the Legislature," he said. "It's certainly not easy, and it's something that I've given a lot of thought to and will continue to give a lot of thought to."
Olsen said Vermont is facing "monumental challenges," and he wants to "leverage my experience to bring forward innovative solutions to these challenges while being a strong advocate for our community."
Olsen cited three primary areas of concern:
-- Education finance and governance.
"As I look at the number of school budgets that failed this year, there's clearly momentum for change in our educationalfunding system," he said.
Olsen also cited a statewide decline in student enrollments, saying it points to a larger economic problem. "That's really concerning," he said. "It's really an indicator of the problem that we have in Vermont with affordability" for families.
-- The economy.
"We really need to be looking at how we can promote a diverse economy that extends to multiple sectors," Olsen said. "People are really concerned with the availability of good-paying jobs. And it's more than just jobs - it's careers."
-- Health-care reform.
Olsen said the debate about how to fund Vermont's move toward single-payer health care often does not address the skyrocketing costs of health care for consumers.
"It's much broader than how we pay for health care," Olsen said. "We really have an issue with cost."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-2542311, ext. 275.