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A New Voice To Represent A Diverse Winooski

Last week voters in Winooski chose two representatives to serve the district in Vermont’s statehouse. The election highlighted the city’s changing demographics.

Winooski voters cast their ballots in favor of change last week, choosing a new voice to represent the city in the statehouse.

With rents slightly cheaper than Burlington and a trendy restaurant and bar scene emerging, Winooski has seen a spike in young professionals moving to the city.

Diana Gonzalez, who ran under both the Progressive and Democrat umbrellas, is one such young professional. She’s lived in the city since 2011.

“We now have two representatives that come from populations that we have in our city,” said Gonzalez.

Along with Gonzalez, Democrat Clem Bissonnette was re-elected to the House. Bissonnette is a Winooski mainstay who will serve his fifth term.

The city is one of Vermont’s most diverse.

It’s a popular home for new Americans coming to the state as part of the refugee resettlement program. It’s also home to many Vermonters living in poverty.

Gonzalez says both she and Bissonnette need to keep those groups in mind.

“Those are two additional significant populations that we have in our city that we need to make sure we have representation for,” said Gonzalez.

Bissonnette and Gonzalez both defeated long-time representative Ken Atkins in the Democratic primary.

In the general election, both garnered more votes than Progressive Robert Millar.

Gonzalez isn’t brand new to Vermont. She moved to the state in 2002, first living in Southern Vermont, and elsewhere in Chittenden County.

"People don't think of us as a very diverse state, and we really are. The way folks live in the Northeast Kingdom is really different than the way they live in Chittenden County. It's challenging sometimes to make policy that accounts for all those differences." -Diana Gonzalez

She says that gives her perspective on the unique needs of Vermonters across the state.

“People don’t think of us as a very diverse state, and we really are. The way folks live in the Northeast Kingdom is really different than the way they live in Chittenden County,” said Gonzalez. “It’s challenging sometimes to make policy that accounts for all those differences.”

There are a number of statewide issues Gonzalez says she’s looking at, including the number of Vermonters who are incarcerated and sent to out-of-state prisons.

And locally, she says community members are still very much invested in the F-35 debate.

Last year, the decision was made to base the jets at Burlington International Airport in 2020, but Gonzalez says Winooski residents are still concerned.

“It is past the point of a clear way of influence, but it’s still something I’m making sure to keep on my radar and see in what ways I could influence,”said Gonzalez.

She says she worries that those who will be most negatively impacted by the F-35 basing are those who cannot afford to move.

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