Q&A with State Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale

Q&A with Kesha Ram Hinsdale

State Senator, Vermont

Kesha RamTell us about your background. What are the experiences, including education, that make up the person you currently are?

I was raised on hard work and the American Dream in my family’s Irish pub run by my Indian immigrant father and Jewish American mother. When my parents were busy running the family business or fell on hard times, I looked to my teachers and after-school counselors to help shape the leader who was later ready to run for office. After getting my start in politics as Student Body President at the University of Vermont, I ran for State Representative during my senior year and went on to serve four terms as the youngest legislator in the country.

What was your trigger moment and why this specific office?

When I was a sophomore at UVM, I had an opportunity to introduce Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders at an on-campus event and, while listening to Obama speak, something clicked. I thought, “If there is a place for someone like him in American politics, maybe there is a place for me.” As a State Rep, I worked to advance social, economic, and racial justice, even when I was standing alone. But in the midst of the racial reckoning in 2020, it became very apparent that there was a need for someone with lived experience like mine to center unheard voices in the conversation.

What made you feel qualified to run for office?

What makes me feel qualified is my drive, appetite for change, and desire to collaborate with passionate members of my community to make our state a more welcoming environment for everyone. I often hear women, especially young women, express the feeling that they don’t have enough experience to run for office. But, one of the wonderful things about public service is that many of the legislative skills you need to be successful can be learned.

Do you work full-time or part-time?


Most people don’t know what their elected official does on a daily basis. What’s a typical day looking like for you?

After attending an in-person swearing-in at the Statehouse, the rest of our legislative session was held over Zoom, so this year looked a little different! A good day is a mixture of making a difference through policy, engaging with passionate constituents, and throwing the ball for my dog Miso in between virtual meetings.

Additionally, they might not know what their elected official is responsible for. What is your role in comparison to other elected offices on your level?

Having served in the House and the Senate, I’ve learned that the Senate takes on more of a watchdog role for the administration because we interact more regularly with top leadership in the state and are responsible for their confirmation. We also represent an entire county, so we have to aggregate more perspectives while maintaining our conviction. As a Senator, I’ve found that my constituents often don’t expect to hear from me but I still like to be as responsive as I was in the House.

What do you think people would be surprised to know someone in your position does?

Some people might think we’re too busy to hear the fullness of their experiences, passions, and hopes, but it’s what keeps us going every day.

What are 3-5 skills needed to be successful in the elected office you served in/are currently serving in?

A deep understanding of yourself, commitment to your values, and a willingness to listen and work with your colleagues regardless of political differences are all essential to getting things done in the Statehouse. Perhaps most importantly, I have found that a great leader surrounds themself with people who they can constantly learn from.

What’s the best part about serving in elected office?

For me, the best part of serving in elected office is when you’re able to reach out and breakthrough to someone struggling in silence or isolation.

What has been the accomplishment you’re most proud of while in office?

We accomplished a lot this legislative session, but one of the things that I’m most proud of is banning the suspension and expulsion of small children from school. I had introduced similar legislation in 2014 focused only on expulsion and was almost laughed out of the building. But this year, when introducing a ban, I had legislative colleagues who said, “let’s add suspension.” It validated my sense of what is right while also making a huge difference for children across Vermont.

In terms of finances, how much money did you have to raise for your campaign?

In my first race, I agonized over raising my first $1,000. Later in my career, I set the fundraising record for my particular race. The issue at hand is not fundraising itself, but believing in your worth and asking people to help you achieve your dreams and accomplish great things for the community.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s thinking about running for the position you serve/have served in their community?

Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. You learn the most from the races you lose and you’ll never know how much of an impact you’re having until you put yourself out there, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and inspire other women to run.