Montpelier has a rich political history that dates back over two hundred years ago, when it became Vermont’s permanent capitol in 1791. Even though Montpelier is mostly known for its role as the state capital of Vermont, the city as a municipality has its own unique political power structure. Identifying political capital in a community involves knowing which people or organizations have the most decision making power. In Montpelier, the decision-making power comes from two main sources; the city manager and the city council.
The council is comprised of the Mayor and six council members that represent the three electoral districts within the city. The city council’s responsibilities are largely legislative, they create policies and ordinances that preserve and protect the health, safety, and welfare of Montpelier residents (City Council & Mayor). The city manager is charged with enforcing the legislation created by the council, creating the annual fiscal budget, being the main purchasing agent, and having administrative control over all of the city’s departments (City Manager).
Political capital also involves finding out the power dynamics that may be intentionally hidden from local knowledge or that are generally overlooked by most people. The city council member Jessica Edgarly-Walsh works for the residential solar company Sun Common, as the director of marketing and her husband, Ben Walsh, is the energy and climate director at VPIRG. Her close ties to renewable energy and important energy related political players throughout the state might have behind-the-scenes influence on Montpelier’s energy policy (Jessica Edgerly-Walsh).
One of the crucial community based organizations that helps grow Montpelier’s political capital is the Vermont Institute for Government. It is a non-profit organization that aims to keep Vermont government responsive, assessable and competent by offering training and education to local and state officials in addition to offering the general public education to better understand and engage with government institutions and processes. They have done extensive research on the relationship between town officials and local residents so as to learn how to improve the governing process (VT Institute for Government). They offer tips for both officials and residents that help the municipality to achieve more democratic outcomes. Residents in Montpelier need community-based organizations like the VT Institute for Government to help improve the relationship residents have with the governing process (VT Institute for Government). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 67.76% of residents voted in the general election in Montpelier, which means that there is a potential to help improve resident participation in political matters through education and outreach (Elections Division 2016).
City Council & Mayor | Montpelier, VT. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.montpelier-vt.org/258/City-Council-Mayor
City Manager | Montpelier, VT. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.montpelier-vt.org/300/City-Manager
Elections Division: Office Of The Secretary Of State. (2016, November 17). Voter Turnout General Election 11/08/16. Retrieved from https://www.sec.state.vt.us/media/800294/2016gevoterturnout.pdf
JESSICA EDGERLY WALSH. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://suncommon.com/team/jessica-edgerly-walsh/
VT Institute for Government: Who We Are. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://vtinstituteforgovt.weebly.com/