Rep. Olsen to step down; clerk seeks post
LONDONDERRY — The town clerk in Londonderry, Kelly MacLaury-Pajala, will seek appointment to the House seat being vacated by Rep. Oliver Olsen, who announced Sunday that he will step down before the end of his term.
"I have been committed to serving our community in a variety of roles; representing the people of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall in the Legislature would take that commitment to the next level," MacLaury-Pajala, a local businesswoman and political independent, said Monday.
Olsen, also an independent who won re-election in 2016, cited business commitments in his decision not to seek another term in the Windham-Windsor-Bennington House district.
He said increasing professional responsibilities have made it difficult to balance his job with his family life and the time demands of representing his district. The Londonderry resident said he works for a large multinational software company and has been asked "to take on additional responsibilities over the past year."
Olsen has not yet set a specific date for when he will step down, he said.
The seat will be filled through an appointment by Gov. Phil Scott.
"We are fortunate to have been served by effective and responsive leaders in the Vermont House for many years, and I want to make sure that our region continues to be well represented," MacLaury-Pajala said.
In a release Monday, she said she served as the Weston assistant town clerk for three years before being elected Londonderry town clerk in 2012.
MacLaury-Pajala also helped organize and execute the Pingree Park Revitalization Project, which helped rebuild Londonderry's Pingree Park and led to the formation of a Town Parks Board.
And she has operated a small business, Dancing Hands Creations, designing and creating children's clothing, quilts, aprons and other household textiles. She also has been an active vendor at the West River Farmer's Market for 10 years and is currently serves on its board.
MacLaury-Pajala has served the board of the Little School, as a member of Weston's Planning Commission, and as chairwoman of Londonderry's Parks Board for four years.
"The combination of my public service and small business experience make me uniquely qualified to serve in the Vermont House," she said.
She said she grew up in Weston and graduated from Burr and Burton Academy, later graduating cum laude from Skidmore College with a bachelor's degree in Women's Studies.
MacLaury-Pajala listed economic development, affordability, and the protection of school choice as key priorities that she would pursue if appointed.
"As a mother of two boys, I want to ensure that they have the same educational choices that I had, and an opportunity to thrive in our community as they grow up," she said.
Serving the five-town House district "has been the greatest honor of my life, and I will always be grateful to the people of our community who entrusted me with the responsibility of representing their interests in Montpelier," Olsen said on Sunday. "But a vibrant democracy is dependent upon change, and the time has come for someone new to represent us."
He added, "With responsibility at work that is now global in scope, I have already clocked more than 100,000 air miles this year," he said, "and have come to the realization that it would be a logistical impossibility for me to spend a meaningful amount of time in Montpelier this winter."
Olsen said he has encouraged community members in his district to serve in his place.
"The critical thing is that our next representative be an independent thinker who understands the unique needs of our region, and can work well with others to be an effective advocate for our community," he said.
Olsen, who is moderator for the newly created Taconic and Green Regional School District, said he will also take on a new role as board chairman of the non-profit Weston Playhouse Theatre Company.
He said he has stepped down from the board of trustees of Burr and Burton Academy.
Olsen was appointed to fill a vacancy in the House district in 2010 and was elected that November to a full term. He stepped down in 2012 but returned to run successfully again in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016.
Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. Reach Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.
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