Vanessa Robertson was sitting in Mr. Lingren’s middle school history class when she found her passion for history and politics. That was the turning point in her life when she realized what she wanted to do with her future, and when she found her voice.
“He really allowed me to voice my opinions on things which I hadn’t previously had teachers that allowed me to do that,” said Robertson.
Born and raised in Rutland, Robertson was recently elected to the Rutland Board of Alderman, making local history as the youngest to ever hold the office.
The 21-year-old Robertson is a junior, double majoring in political science and history. She started the Political Science Club and is the club’s president. She is also the vice president of the Democratic Leadership Club on campus and has served as a research assistant to the Castleton Polling Institute.
Associate Director of the Polling Institute Amanda Richardson supervised Robertson’s work.
“We had conversations about open board member positions. And we talk about politics, which is fun,” Richardson said with a giggle. “I’m not from Rutland, so it was nice to see her perspective since she’s lived there her whole life.”
Robertson said the goals she campaigned with that she plans to see through include fixing the local water system and growing the downtown of Rutland.
“They’re very old in Rutland and they need to be replaced, so we need to come up with a quick plan to do that,” said Robertson, of the city’s old water lines.
As for her other goal of building onto downtown Robertson said she’s excited about the recently announced student housing downtown.
“That’s a really good stepping stone for more Castleton students to be able to transition into Rutland and get involved in those businesses,” Robertson said.
Rich Clark, professor and director of the Polling Institute, said he’s excited to see a Castleton student on the board and despite her youth, he believes that she will be taken seriously on the board.
“You know she’s young, but she speaks her mind. Forcefully not aggressively. She’s completely of a different generation and she gets that,” Clark said.
Richardson added that Robertson being on the board now is great for Rutland.
“It’s really exciting for me to see diversification in the Alderman. It would be great if all the populations were represented. It’s an improvement for me as a voter,” Richardson said.
Mayor Chris Louras told Castleton’s communications office that he was delighted that Robertson was elected to the board.
“For years, it has been my administration’s stated goal to see young, passionate members of our community become involved in City government,” said Louras.
When Richardson and Clark were describing Robertson the common word that was repeated was — confident.
“That makes me feel special, it’s fantastic that they said that,” beamed Robertson.
“I think that people throughout my life didn’t really know how to deal with this little short girl that consistently wanted to voice her opinions. So I like that it’s viewed as confidence; that’s how I view it,” Robertson said, with another giggle.
She is the third woman on the board now, and being the youngest, she hopes to contribute both perspectives on the board.
“I stand for allowing all people a voice on the board. I stand for wanting different voices on the board,” said Robertson.
Robertson has requested to be called “Alderwoman.” If allowed, she would be the first. Robertson will attend her first meeting on March 21.
For the future, she plans on attending law school, but has not determined what kind of law she wants to study yet. She is leaning more toward corporate law.
“Five years down the line, I hope to be graduated from law school and be working for a firm. Law school has been the goal since I was 15-16 years old,” Robertson said.