On the steps of the Vermont statehouse, former Middlebury College employee and Middlebury Union Middle School administrator Esther Charlestin announced the launch of her gubernatorial campaign. Delivering the announcement on Friday, Jan. 5, Charleston became the first Democrat to throw their name in the ring for the 2024 Vermont gubernatorial race.
Burlington mayor Miro Weinberger and State Rep. Caleb Elder, D-Starksboro, have also expressed interest in entering the race, according to VTDigger, but have not launched official campaigns. Incumbent Republican governor Phil Scott is expected to run for a fifth term, but has yet to officially confirm his plans.
“When thinking about the future of Vermont, I do not see a clear picture,” Charlestin said in an interview with The Campus. “I have always been super active in the community here in Vermont, and I know that there are a lot of unanswered questions here in the state that need to be addressed, which is why I was motivated to run for governor.”
If she succeeds in the gubernatorial race, Charlestin would be only the second female governor of Vermont after Madeleine Kunin, who was first elected to the position in 1985.
Charlestin said she is deeply proud of being a woman running for office and works to promote womens’ involvement in policy making as much as possible. She is currently the co-chair of the Vermont Commission on Women, a nonpartisan state government commission that works to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls across the state, according to its website.
Charlestin moved to Vermont in 2019 and began working for Middlebury College as a residential director and assistant director of community standards. She described the fulfillment she got from those positions at the college, interacting with and supporting students on a daily basis as they navigated their time at Middlebury.
“I would just love to hang out with the upperclassmen,” Charlestin said. “My office was in Allen, but I lived in both Coffrin and Atwater at one time, and it was so nice to watch these folks grow while I was here.”
This gubernatorial campaign is not Charlestin’s first experience with running for public office. In 2021, she was elected to the Town of Middlebury selectboard.
Charlestin was re-elected to the selectboard in 2022 to serve a three-year term, but ended up being unable to complete the entirety of her term because she could not find housing after her previous lease expired.
Given this experience of struggling to find housing, Charlestin said she would make housing policy a major priority if elected governor. “So many folks cannot afford a place to live, however at the same time, our workforce is shrinking because so many older folks are retiring,” she stated. “So many young people will come to Vermont for college, but then leave after. We need more people in the workforce, but people need to be able to afford housing, and how can they do that now?”
Current governor Phil Scott’s 2024 State of the State address to the Vermont General Assembly and Vermont citizens also addressed housing concerns. “Due to a lack of housing, and our tax and regulatory policies, rents and purchase prices are far too high, and rising,” Scott said at the Jan. 4 address.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the affordable housing crisis has become an increasingly pressing issue both in Addison County and in Vermont as a whole. The Addison County housing vacancy rate was 2.4% in 2021, while a 6–8% vacancy rate is considered healthy, according to research done by Rights and Democracy.
Charlestin worked in the Addison County School District as the Dean of Climate & Culture at Middlebury Union Middle School for about a year beginning in the fall of 2022. After experiencing racism while at the school and having a different idea for what the job would entail than the school district, Charlestin resigned in September 2023.
Charlestin received a Bachelor’s degree in History and Communications from Western Connecticut State University, along with a Master of Science in Corporate Communications and Public Relations and a Master of Arts in Teaching, both from Sacred Heart University.
Charlestin said she was always encouraged by her parents to prioritize her education, and she now gives her own two children the same encouragement to focus on their studies. She cited the quality of Vermont public schools as a reason she was drawn to move to the state five years ago.
Another issue Charlestin plans to address in her campaign is climate resiliency in the state, especially in the aftermath of last summer’s devastating flooding.
“We need to have climate resistant communities,” Charlestin said. “Are Vermonters really ready with the current infrastructure if another flood happens? Because it could. This means we really have to confront the reality of climate change.”
Charlestin described herself as a Vermonter by choice, something she is very proud of. She added that she believes being a “Vermonter by choice” is something others should be proud of too, particularly given the state’s beautiful backdrop.
“The thing I love about Vermont the most is the healing landscape it has,” Charlestin said. “We have to confront climate change in order to keep the landscape beautiful.”
The only way to make effective change statewide, Charlestin explained, is to make sure everyone has an equal spot at the table.
Mandy Berghela '26 (she/her) is a Local Editor.
She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and contributing writer for the Campus. She plans to major in Political Science, with a minor in Arabic. Along with the paper, Mandy serves on the Judicial Board, social media manager for the Southeast Asian Society (SEAS), and is also involved in many campus theatre productions. On her free time, she enjoys long walks, cycling, and reading fantasy novels.