Rep. Kitty Toll Says Goodbye to the Statehouse

NORTHEAST KINGDOM-Representative Catherine Toll made the decision earlier this year to step down as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee in Vermont. She says her decision to step down has nothing to do with what has happened in the last year, but that she simply wants more time to herself.

Kitty Toll is the youngest of 14 children in her family, she is very proud of her 7th generation dairy farm that her parents raised her on. She always loved Danville, so that's where she decided to stay and build her life. She has always been an active member in the community and her church.

Toll was always around politics since she was a child, her mother was, and still is her inspiration when it came to politics. Even as a young child her parents always instilled in her the importance of staying up to date about what's going on in her community.

"My mother, I would say is the, not I would say, I know is the one that instilled the love for politics in me. We always had conversations about news and politics, we've followed elections. She was very active in the democratic party back in the 60s when she said that the number of democrats in Vermont was so small that they could hold a meeting in a telephone booth," Toll explains.

Toll said since she was a child that her mother always taught her to be strong. The women in her family were great examples for her when it came to holding jobs, having opinions, and women were expected to produce. But never was she questioned on how she felt about her political opinions.

"Having that role model, I really didn't see or experience you know, women not really being given an equal shake, so I think I was fortunate," Toll goes on to say.

When she first got introduced into the world of politics she first noticed how important it is to make your voice heard and stick to your opinions. Being honest and upfront is an essential part of being in the Legislature.

"Your word is your word and if you break your word, you know you've basically lost your standing in the legislature. So if you gave your word on a bill, or position, or something you said you were doing, and you did the opposite without notification, it's okay to change your mind, but you tell people you're changing your mind," Toll says.

She also learned along the way that sometimes you don't always have to speak on something important going on during a discussion. But if you pick your battles right, more people will tend to hear you in the moment.

"But I also learned from watching representatives, those that spoke less often but spoke with real passion, their voices were, I mean you listened. There are some legislators that speak on the house all the time, and I learned that you pick and choose when you speak, because if you speak all the time you become white noise," Toll says with enthusiasm.

She says that the family dynamic in the legislature is what she is going to miss the most. Even with the divided parties, she doesn't feel that the Vermont legislature is as divided as other states. She stresses the importance of respect in the workplace, even when someone does not have the same opinions as you do. Even when some of her closest friends are strong republicans, there's never a moment where she feels like someone doesn't have her back.

"He may have to vote against me, and vote differently than I do sometimes. Because you know our beliefs, or our party basis are different, or platforms I should say. But I just knew he was there one hundred percent for me," as Toll describes one of her dearest friends.

Despite her decision, being a part of the Vermont legislature is one of Tolls biggest honors in life. Although the job is stressful and trying at times, she feels that she has always been able to handle the stress of her position very well. Toll adds that she does tend to pile up more work then needed when it came to the job. She is looking forward to less emails in her inbox at the end of the day.

Toll explains that her decision to step down from her post was a very difficult decision. Although she loves the job, there was really no other reason than, life is short and she wants to spend more time with her family. She knew it was the right time for her to step down, and in no way did the pandemic sway her decision to leave.

Toll explains that the budget was the most difficult part in the midst of the pandemic. The Budget was almost ready to go before Covid-19 had actually started. When the Pandemic started effecting the state, the economy had started to fall apart, and they had to re-evaluate where money was being spent.

"Everything was so uncertain in changing that to make budget decisions would have been impossible and almost irresponsible. So we passed a quarter budget in June just to keep government open, keep things running, programs running, no changes. Then we came back at the end of August and just finished on September 25th, we did a full year budget. We brought in the quarter year, and did a full year budget on the best information we had at the time," Toll explains.

During Covid, although you can work remotely, the personal connection is not there. She says that sitting on a zoom screen does not build the same kind of connections. When you meet people in person she describes it as "keeping you accountable, sincere, and honest." Those relationships are key for her when it comes to getting to know who she's talking to.

"I think covid has, I am hoping, making the point that yes, we can do this remote work in a short period of time. But we need to be back there and working together as individuals for the state and really understanding each other," Toll adds.

Toll has high hopes for Vermont in the future, she expresses that she is confident that the state will find a way to attract more people to this area to settle down, send their children to school, create jobs, and provide better climate change solutions.

She also hopes that whoever takes her position is able to fill her shoes, she's excited to travel and is very eager to start new advantures in her life.