BENNINGTON — Mia Schultz, a forceful local advocate on civil rights issues, is now chairwoman of the Bennington Town Democratic Party.
Previously the vice chair, Schultz replaces Chairman Dane Whitman, who stepped down after being elected to the Vermont House from District 2-1.
Schultz, 44, who is African American and the first Black person to hold the chairmanship, has been active in local and state politics and on social/racial equity causes.
“Dane has been an excellent leader, and I’m excited that he will be representing the Bennington community in Montpelier,” Schultz said in a release. “As a woman of color, I hope that serving as chair of the town Democrats will inspire a new group of people to engage in the political process.”
Schultz has advocated for police department reforms in Bennington, supported the Black Lives Matter mural and national rights movement, and was active in protesting racially motivated harassment of former state Rep. Kiah Morris, who ended her 2018 campaign for a third term from the Bennington 2-2 District, citing long-running online harassment.
Schultz also has been active with the NAACP and with Rights and Democracy in Bennington and at a state level.
In 2019, she organized an exhibit at the Bennington Museum titled, “Visible in Vermont: Our Stories, Our Voices,” representing the experiences of people of color in Vermont and the impact of racism on their lives.
Schultz also serves on two equity commissions through the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools.
STEPPING DOWNWhitman, a graduate of Bennington College who operates a small business as a landscape designer and gardener, became increasingly involved in community engagement, energy efficiency and climate change initiatives through his post-graduate work.
In the November election, Whitman won one of the two House seats in the Bennington-2-1 District. He said he is stepping down from his position as chairman of the town committee to “open up this leadership opportunity for other members of the community.”
The local Democrats will now choose a new committee vice chair.
“Dane and I, and the town Democrats, hope that my assumption of the chair position will reinforce the community that all are welcome to, and needed by, our party,” Schultz said. “I encourage other community members to come forward and represent the most marginalized peoples of our town.”
“I couldn’t be happier,” Bennington County Democratic Party Committee Chairman Tom Haley said Monday. “Dane is going to make a spectacular representative, and the Town Committee’s loss is his district’s gain.”
He added, “Mia is not only a dear friend, she is a powerhouse, and her energy and commitment will surely drive our committee onward and upwards. She is exactly what we need at this time, and am looking forward to working with her … I am especially excited to hear her vocalize her drive to include people from more marginalized populations in our committee.”