Vermont GOP elects 17-year-old student as Burlington committee chair

Editor’s note: This is part of our Vermont Voices Series.

The Vermont Republican Party has just elected its youngest official ever to take the helm of one of the GOP’s largest, local party committees.

On Sept. 17, the Burlington Republican Committee elected Kolby LaMarche to the position of committee chair. LaMarche, who is about to turn 18, is a senior at Burlington High School.

Lou Varricchio/TNR

Kolby LaMarche: “At BHS, politics are left leaning, more progressive … but they haven’t swallowed everyone up yet.”

As the state’s newest and youngest GOP member, LaMarche said he has been involved in Republican and conservative causes in Vermont since he was a middle-school student in Chittenden County. Since LaMarche will turn 18 before the next general election, he is legally eligible to become the Burlington GOP’s leader.

“I’m very excited Kolby has been elected chair of the Burlington Republican Committee,” said Deb Billado, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. “Kolby brings a fresh voice and a renewed, vibrant focus as chair in Vermont’s largest city. I’m excited by his passion, and look forward to working with him to elect Republican candidates in Chittenden County.”

True North Reports met up with LaMarche in Burlington to learn more about what motivated the young man to get involved in state politics at an early age, as well as how his fellow young Vermonters’ view his involvement as a conservative in one of the nation’s most liberal states.

True North: Are you a native Vermonter? What’s your family history and interest in getting involved in the political scene on a party level?

LaMarche: I was born right here in lovely, beautiful Burlington, Vermont. I am a single child and was raised by a single mother. I was baptized Episcopalian but I don’t consider myself to be in any religious category right at the moment. Technically, I am senior student at Burlington High School but I am engaged in an early college program at Community College of Vermont. Hopefully, I will transfer later to Champlain College in Burlington. I’d like to major in communications and public relations. My top goal is to, someday, work in the U.S. State Department in any capacity. People ask me about my personal interests. Well, politics is my most engaged hobby right now. I also like writing. I even enjoy video games as a great break from politics and school work. I am reading a lot right now; I like history and am reading about the Roman republic and Julius Caesar.

TNR: What formed your political views? Surely, it’s a challenge growing up and being “out” as a conservative in liberal Chittenden County.

LaMarche: I organized the Junior Republicans of Burlington at BHS last year, but sadly all of the members were too scared to engage in the club. You know, I started out more on the liberal side. But in middle school I started getting really engaged. I was selected as an ambassador of the Afternoon Program; well, it was a huge thing like being on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. And after Donald Trump announced his candidacy it truly challenged me, challenged my views, and also what my teachers were saying, politically. President Trump really made me think and look at public issues in a different way. My grandfather was an early supporter of Trump. He followed the 2016 election closely and got me involved even more. He had me sit down and watch a Trump speech on television. Now the first presidential campaign (2012) that I was aware of was when I was in the fifth grade. The teachers brought us into a room to watch the inauguration of President Obama. Now I don’t think they brought the students in a room to see the inauguration of President Trump on TV. Well, that day, the day of President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, there was a lot of crying (in school); no one talked to me that day. They didn’t want to concede that I knew he would be elected. It was a great day, not only for the United States, but for me, personally.

TNR: It certainly took courage to express your political views in a monolithic, left-leaning school community.

LaMarche: At BHS, politics are left leaning, more progressive … but they haven’t swallowed everyone up yet. I have a few conservative school friends. After we received a lot of harassment, people telling us they were going to beat us up or post stuff (online) about us … these few conservative students just weren’t vocal; they didn’t want to deal with the conflict arising from expressing their views. They didn’t want to deal with the hate. … You know, I considered the Libertarian Party but now am now a conservative Republican, a proud Republican.

TNR: You admire President Trump. Is he the person who inspired and propelled you into politics officially?

Lamarche: Yes. I started volunteering for the Trump Campaign here when I met Deb Billado, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. We started a firm relationship; it was great to see her go to the state level and make good, important changes. Since the 2016 campaign, I’ve attended numerous state party meetings. I was warmly welcomed by everyone. So, I met several mentors, individuals like Michael Ly and Alex Farrell. Alex helped guide me and stressed the civic responsibilities involved in being a local committee chair. Now I talk to many young Republicans — yes, they are around, but you have to search them out, you have to make sure they trust you first. … I think there are a lot of young Republicans in Vermont, but we have to support them ‘coming out’ as Republicans.

TNR: What does a party committee chairperson have to do?

LaMarche: It’s exciting work. I have to oversee the elections of running Republicans, set up meetings, getting to know people, especally those on the ballot. Automatically, I am a delegate to the county. So there are many levels that blend into my responsibilities. Last month, Vermont Republicans have been engaged in Town Reorganization, and this month with County Reorganization. So, things are exciting. We may have the first GOP candidate for mayor of Burlington in awhile. So, I am truly honored to have been elected to serve as chair of the Burlington Republican Committee alongside members of the committee who I have respected and worked with. As chair, I hope to send a message that the Vermont GOP has a place for my young peers in towns and cities across the state. I look forward to growing our party, spreading our message, and working with my colleagues to elect Republican candidates.

TNR: What do you think about Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott supporting the partisan move, by mostly Democrats, to impeach President Trump over what appears to be an overblown telephone conversation with a foreign leader regarding Democrat Joe Biden?

LaMarche: I have lost a lot of confidence in Governor Scott, especially over his support of the Presidential impeachment inquiry. Although I support that Governor Scott, even as a Republican, should be free to think what he likes, he does have a responsibility to the voters and a responsibility for the “R” next to his name. I think the governor should keep in mind that, when making public statements, he might rein-in his pursuit of getting two-party support (without considering his base); how about let’s make sure he secures his own party first.

TNR: Thank you.

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/DonkeyHotey and Lou Varricchio/TNR
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