Democrat Joseph Andriano of Orwell is looking forward to serving his first term


JOSEPH ADRIANO IS excited to serve his first term as represen- tative for Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting, Sudbury, and Hubbardton.

MIDDLEBURY — Joseph Andriano knew during his college years in Ohio that he wanted to make Vermont his home.

Two decades later, he’s not only living in the Green Mountain State, but he’ll also soon be representing one of its districts in the Vermont House of Representatives.

It’s a dream come true for Andriano, an Orwell Democrat who on Nov. 8 was elected unopposed to a two-year term representing the Addison-Rutland House district.

Andriano grew up on Long Island, N.Y., and attended Oberlin College. While there, he participated in the Oberlin Initiative in Electoral Politics.

“The idea was to give Oberlin students the opportunity to find out what electoral politics is really like,” he recalled.

It was a year-long program (2001) that included a summer internship, which Andriano chose to do at Vermont Democratic Party offices in Burlington.

“I was interested in Vermont, was thinking about applying to Vermont Law School and thought this was a great opportunity to check out Vermont,” he explained.

His tasks included assisting the party with reorganization of the town, county and state Democratic Committees.

Andriano enjoyed his first taste of politics and knew he wanted more. But first, he had to continue his education and get into the workforce. He went on to earn his J.D. from Vermont Law School and embarked on a teaching career before settling into his law practice in Orwell, where he resides with his wife, Sarah. 

In addition to running a law office that focuses on estate planning and the formation of employee-owned cooperative businesses, Andriano co-hosts the popular “Orwell Bugler” podcast with the owner of Buxton’s Store, Andy Buxton. In it, the pair ruminate on local people, places and things.

In addition to teaching civics and law at the high school level, Andriano was an Assistant Professor of Law at Clarkson University, an Assistant Dean at Loyola Marymount University and a Professor of the Practice at Middlebury College. His work in higher education has focused on law and business ethics.

While he’s only lived in Orwell for a few years, he’s become very involved in his community. He chairs the Orwell Planning Commission and Development Review Board and is a member of both the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and Addison County Economic Development Corporation boards. He also serves as vice chair of the Orwell Democratic Committee and volunteers in other capacities as well.


Andriano has always aspired to serve as a lawmaker and decided the time was right earlier this year when incumbent Addison-Rutland Rep. Peter Norris, I-Shoreham, announced he wouldn’t seek another term.

“Public service has always been at the center of my life,” he said. “I always thought to myself, ‘Is there a way I can give more? Is there a way I can help more?’”

Andriano knew from the get-go that his candidacy might be a tough sell. In addition to being a first-time candidate and a relatively new transplant, the Addison-Rutland House district — which includes Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting, Sudbury and Hubbardton — has never sent a Democratic representative to the Vermont Statehouse. Voters have during the past 15 years elected independents, such as Alyson Eastman, Will Stevens and Norris — but no Dems.

Joseph Andriano

Friends and acquaintances asked Andriano if he’d consider running as an independent to increase his election chances.

“I said that I’ve been a Democrat my entire life, and I can’t say to someone that I’m an independent, because it’s not the truth,” he said. “I want to always be truthful with my constituents.”

He decided to stay true to his party affiliation and let the chips fall where they may on Nov. 8.

“I said to myself, ‘The worst that can happen is that (the voters) don’t let you (serve),” Andriano recalled. “I figured if I run on the things I believe, if I run on listening to people … and find out what’s important to them, maybe people will want to elect me.”

Turns out Andriano had the easiest election experience of any Addison County House candidates this year. He ran unopposed, with no write-in campaign waged against him.

“I’m honored and humbled,” he said. “I really hope I can help.”

He believes he can best help his constituents by embracing a legislative agenda centered on making Vermont more affordable. That, in part, means making housing, childcare and health care more accessible to all — including the young families the state is trying so hard to attract and retain.

“I don’t know a single person who isn’t struggling right now,” Andriano stated in his campaign literature. “High housing costs and decreased housing stock are forcing people to move out of the communities they love, further away from their jobs, and sometimes even out of Vermont. I believe we must find ways to make housing more available and affordable for people who want to live and work here fulltime.” 

Andriano conceded he doesn’t yet have answers for all the legislative priorities on his list, which include changing how public education is financed and making sure communities aren’t forced to close their local schools. He noted some Addison County communities (Ripton, Lincoln and Starksboro) have already taken dramatic steps in an effort to safeguard their schools from closure.

“We have to look again at how we approach education funding,” Andriano said. “It’s a very complex issue and I’m not going to pretend I have all the answers … But what I want to be is a voice for rural communities to say to folks in Montpelier and the larger towns, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing to us.’”

He noted a village school — such as Orwell’s — is “so much more than a school to us than a place to educate our kids; it’s a hub of our community.”

Andriano acknowledged declining enrollment, surging education costs and mounting maintenance expenses are making it tougher to keep smaller schools open. But he believes residents in most rural towns have decided they’re not ready to sacrifice their local schools for the potential of longer bus rides and a loss of community identity.

“I talked to so many people during the campaign and this issue kept coming up again and again,” Andriano said of the importance small-town residents place on local schools. “How can we ignore that message?”


Here are additional challenges Andriano hopes to tackle in the Statehouse during the coming biennium:

Infrastructure. He believes the state needs to be more proactive fixing and/or realigning deteriorating roads — particularly Route 22A.

“Route 22A is a two-lane country road and we have massive trucks barreling down it with areas of terrible sight lines and sharp curves,” he said. “Rarely a week goes by without an accident. VTrans says they’re doing something about it south of Orwell, but it’s just as bad north of Orwell. If it’s going to be a major truck route, it needs to be fixed so it can be safe for truckers and for cars, and it needs to happen yesterday.”

• Broadband. “One thing that the pandemic taught us is that high-speed internet is so much more than a way to watch movies or look at pictures of cats — it’s a way to access education, health care, our jobs, and more. As a state we are woefully behind on broadband, and we need to find a way to build out access to last-mile fiber more quickly.”

• Civil justice reform. “The court system touches each and every one of our lives. I believe that if a governmental institution is going to have such power over us, it should be accessible and understandable to everyone,” he said. “We need to invest in developing more programs to make it easy for people to use the court system so they are not at a disadvantage if they cannot afford an attorney. We also need to be teaching civics in our schools so that every high school student graduates with knowledge about how to use the courts.”

• Climate crisis. “I am in favor of legislation to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis and will insist that any such legislation specifically address economic inequities. Whether it is investing in more energy efficient heating methods or encouraging greater weatherization, we need to make sure no one is left behind as we try to find solutions.”

Andriano said he realizes his priorities come at a cost. But he noted that if Vermonters are asked to pay less for basic services, they’ll have more to spend on other things, which would be an asset to the economy.

“When we are talking about spending that could result in an increase in taxes, the question I will always ask myself is if this spending will put more net dollars in the pocket of working Vermonters and small business owners in our state,” he said. 

“I believe that spending money on things such as universal primary care, childcare, heat pumps and other such priorities can result in more money for Vermonters to spend on things they want and need. As we all know, buying in bulk is cheaper than buying piecemeal, and if we can buy these things ‘in bulk’ as a state, then Vermonters can save more money.”

Reporter John Flowers is at

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