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1st candidate announces run for Burlington City Council

Jason Van Driesche. Courtesy photo

The campaign for Burlington City Council is underway ahead of Town Meeting Day in March, with a new challenger making the first announcement in a race.

Jason Van Driesche, a resident of the South End, said this week that he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for the South District council seat.

Reached on Friday, he said a “foundational” issue for him is an “urgent need to come back together as a community and solve problems.”

“I’m getting into the race really because of the divisiveness of the past few years in our community and in particular on the City Council, and I think that’s come at a really heavy cost, and we need to change that,” Van Driesche said in an interview on Friday.

He also listed three primary issues that he said he has heard from people in the city: policing and community safety, housing and affordability and the climate crisis.

Incumbent Joan Shannon, D-South District, said she intends to run for reelection.

“I have been reaching out to constituents to determine if they want me to continue to serve. The response has been overwhelmingly supportive so far and I expect to announce my candidacy when the party determines a date for the caucus,” Shannon said Friday.

Van Driesche said he respects Shannon and thanked her for her service on the council, but also said that he thought it was “time for a fresh perspective, and a new approach.”

Van Driesche is currently the chief of staff at Front Porch Forum and before that worked for Local Motion, an advocacy group on issues around biking and walking in the area. He moved with his family to Vermont in 2008 and settled into a house in the Five Sisters neighborhood in Burlington. 

In addition to being the first candidate to come forward for the South District seat, he is the first announcement for any City Council seat coming up in March, which includes all four district seats as well as the empty Ward 8 council seat.

“Once we’d declared and filed and set up a website and talked with enough folks to have a solid sense of what kinds of issues people are concerned about, once I got to a point where I felt like I was ready, I launched the campaign,” Van Driesche said.

Adam Roof, chair of the Burlington Democrats, said the date for his party’s caucus is not finalized, but he expected it to be held next month.

“We’re always excited to see competition, more choice for the ultimate decision makers in this process, the voters, or in this case the residents of the South End that will come together and caucus in mid-December,” Roof said.

Josh Wronski, executive director of the Vermont Progressive Party, said his party also had not set a caucus date for the upcoming elections.

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