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Emma Mulvaney-Stanak elected mayor of Burlington, 1st woman to lead the city

The Progressive state representative beat out Democratic City Councilor Joan Shannon.

March 5, 2024, 9:45 pm

BURLINGTON — Emma Mulvaney-Stanak was elected mayor of Burlington on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to hold the city’s top job and shifting control of the office to the Progressive Party after a dozen years of Democratic control.

Mulvaney-Stanak, who will also become the Queen City’s first openly LGBTQ+ mayor, beat out the Democrats’ candidate, longtime City Councilor Joan Shannon, by 7,612 to 6,696 votes, according to unofficial results from the city clerk. 

The Progressive earned more than half the vote at 51.4%, avoiding the need for an instant runoff election under the city’s recently re-adopted ranked-choice voting system. Shannon received 45.2% of the vote.

Two independent candidates, Will Emmons and Christopher Haessly, garnered 273 and 205 votes, respectively.

“This is a historic day because we finally have a woman mayor,” Mulvaney-Stanak told supporters who had gathered at the Zero Gravity brewery in the city’s South End. And, she continued, “I am pretty darn sure that I’m the first out queer mayor in the state of Vermont.”

“Representation matters,” she told the crowd, which cheered, screamed and chanted, “Emma, Emma, Emma!”

“As your next mayor, I'm going to tell you the future's bright, but you know what? It's not all on me. It's on all of us,” Mulvaney-Stanak said.  

She thanked Shannon, praising her for her long tenure on the council. “That is no small undertaking. That is a lot of personal sacrifice,” she said. 

Mulvaney-Stanak lives in the Old North End and runs a consulting business with a focus on community organizing. She represents parts of Burlington in the Vermont House, where she is in her second term and chairs the House Progressive Caucus.

She also previously served as chair of the Vermont Progressive Party.

Mulvaney-Stanak will succeed Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat who has led the city since 2012 but chose not to run again last fall. 

Progressives last held the city’s top office between 1995 and 2012 under former mayors Peter Clavelle and Bob Kiss. 

Shannon, speaking to supporters at Halvorson’s Upstreet Cafe on Church Street around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, congratulated Mulvaney-Stanak and said she values and respects “the ideas that Emma brought to the table.” She said the two had spoken earlier in the night. 

“Our commitment is not just to the campaign, but to moving Burlington forward. So let's offer all our hands on deck to Emma,” Shannon told the crowd, paraphrasing her campaign slogan, which was splashed on signs across the front of the restaurant. 

In a brief interview after her remarks, Shannon said she was “surprised” by the results, but added that she knew Mulvaney-Stanak “would be a very, very tough candidate.”

Weinberger, in comments to reporters after Shannon spoke, called Mulvaney-Stanak’s election as Burlington’s first woman and openly LGBTQ+ mayor “historic.”

“These are important milestones for the community and a remarkable accomplishment,” he said, adding that he was heartened by the fact that Democrats maintained a plurality of seats on the City Council in Tuesday’s election. 

Public safety was front and center in the mayoral campaign from the start, with campaign materials from both candidates listing the issue as a top priority alongside many similar talking points. 

But while Shannon emphasized an approach to public safety with strong support for policing, Mulvaney-Stanak preferred the phrase “community safety” and said that Burlington’s problems show that people are “suffering across our community.” 

On the campaign trail, Mulvaney-Stanak found herself accounting for the fact that she shares a party affiliation with the majority of those who voted for a 2020 City Council racial justice resolution that included a reduction in police officer staffing. 

She was not on the council at the time, though Shannon was. The latter had talked up the fact she voted against the measure.

At Zero Gravity on Tuesday, Denise Casey, a Burlington resident who worked on Mulvaney-Stanak’s campaign, sported a T-shirt bearing the mayor-elect’s name. "I feel the issues in the city are complex and require a multidimensional approach and a lot of collaboration and curiosity,” she said, explaining her support for the Progressive. “And to be honest, I'm just not interested in criminalizing poor people — you cannot create community that way.”

Mulvaney-Stanak has said that one of her first actions in office would be to appoint a “special assistant to the mayor” on community safety. And on the question of police staffing, she has said she’d follow the recommendations included in a 2021 assessment of the Burlington Police Department conducted by a nonprofit public safety research organization. That study recommended a total of 85 to 88 police officers. 

Her campaign also called for an overhaul of the city’s tax system — a concept Shannon said that she didn’t support — in response to concerns over affordability. Under the plan, she said that residential property owners living in their primary residence would pay municipal taxes based on income rather than their home’s value. 

After the crowd had largely dispersed and staff had begun to clean up Tuesday night, Mulvaney-Stanak and a handful of supporters celebrated with an impromptu dance party, supplanting the lyrics to Beyonce's "Run the World" with "Who runs the world? Emma!"

Habib Sabet contributed reporting. 

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misidentified one of the independent mayoral candidates.


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