Joe Benning
Vermont State Senator

Caledonia/Orange District

About Joe

       From an early age Joe was taught to work hard and make a commitment to community service.  At the age of eleven his mother, Terry Benning ("affectionately known around our house as 'Mother Teresa'"), had him begin volunteering as a counselor in a summer day camp for mentally disabled children.  He continued that volunteer work for several years, before becoming a paid unit leader in a summer camp for underprivileged children from New York City.  In grade school he had a paper route, shoveled snow, mowed lawns and raked leaves.  In high school he worked preparing and serving food in a delicatessen and at a snack bar at a drive-in movie theater, stocked shelves in a hardware store and delivered prescriptions to shut-ins for a local pharmacy.

     With several other high school students he helped create a walk-a-thon called "Walk For Mankind," an annual charity event that raised money for needy children.  He played guitar in his church folk group, babysat for neighbors and helped watch his younger siblings.  At the age of eighteen he was given the Young Americans Award by the Explorers division of the Boy Scouts of America.

     In 1975 Joe entered Lyndon State College, where he would obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies with a minor in history as a Dean's List student.  At LSC he fell under the tutelage of then State Senator and Professor Graham S. Newell.  Joe and Graham became good friends, sharing a passionate love of Vermont history.  He became the first general manager of the college's fledgling FM radio station, WWLR, and was elected president of the Student Senate.  Under his management WWLR was named one of the ten best college radio stations in New England.  He worked his way through college as a radio announcer at WIKE in Newport, WSTJ in St. Johnsbury and WLTN in Littleton.  He played intramural football, softball and volleyball, and was named in the 1978-'79 edition of Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.

     His first taste of politics came while he served as a driver for Graham Newell during Graham's senate campaign.  Together they would ride around Caledonia County to attend chicken pie suppers and various meet-and-greet events.  Elected as LSC's delegate to the Vermont State College Student Association, Joe joined with other state college delegates to work with House Representatives Cola Hudson and Madeline Kunin to push a bill through the legislature that placed a student on the Vermont State College Board of Trustees.  When the bill became law he was the first student elected to serve in that capacity.  As a trustee he worked hard to preserve the unique character of each state college.  He was chosen to give the student graduation speech at his commencement. 

     Following college Joe worked as an account executive at WSTJ in St. Johnsbury, selling radio advertising to numerous businesses in northeastern Vermont.  He then entered Vermont Law School and obtained a Juris Doctorate Degree.  While at VLS he was appointed to the Moot Court Advisory Board in recognition of his oratory skills, and represented the law school in a national moot court competition in Baltimore, Maryland.  He worked his way through law school as a radio announcer at WTSL in Hanover and Q106 in Claremont, New Hampshire.  As a member of the law school's softball team, he traveled around New England competing against several other schools.

     In 1983 Joe married Derby, Vermont native Debbie Carr and they bought a home in Lyndon, where they've resided ever since.  They have two children: Emily and Justin.  They live with George, the cat.

     After passing the bar exam, Joe began the practice of law with Joseph T. Malgeri, Esq., in St. Johnsbury.  He then formed part of the firm of Bertolini, Benning and Glinka, before establishing a solo practice in Lyndonville in 1993.  As a trial lawyer he has conducted trials in both state and federal courts, arguing cases in courtrooms from Quebec to Maryland.  Now concentrating in criminal and family law, he practices primarily in northeastern Vermont.  He has received awards from the Vermont Bar Association for performing pro bono work, has taught law courses at Lyndon State College as an adjunct professor, was a charter member of the Caledonia County Task Force on Domestic Violence and headed the effort to preserve historical artifacts at the Caledonia County Courthouse.

     Elected Town Agent for the Town of Lyndon and Village Agent for the Village of Lyndonville, Joe represented those municipalities in several legal proceedings.  These included cases with the state's Agency of Natural Resources involving the sewage treatment plant and the United States Environmental Protection Agency involving cleanup of the Parker Landfill.  He later served on the committee that developed a merger plan for the town and village governments.  He is a lifetime member of the Lyndon Historical Society.

     Through the years he has continued community service work.  He coached soccer, t-ball, little league and a women's softball team.  For twenty years he was an active member of Lyndonville's Stars & Stripes Committee.  He was president of the Lyndon State College Foundation, vice-president of the Caledonia County Bar Association, and president of the Lyndonville Rotary Club. He is a founding member of the Central Vermont Harley Owners Group and helped organize the annual Toys For Tots motorcycle run, which donates thousands of toys each year to children at Shriner's hospitals.

     He served two terms on the Lyndon Town School Board, is a Justice of the Peace and member of the Board of Civil Authority. For ten years he held the post of Lyndon Town Republican Committee chair.  In 2008 he was appointed by Governor Jim Douglas to become Chair of Vermont's Human Rights Commission.  Since 2011 he has served as Lyndon's Town Moderator.  He has also served as a trustee for Lyndon Institute and as a corporator for Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital.

     Upon the death of Representative Cola Hudson, he helped establish a scholarship in Cola's name to assist Lyndon Institute graduates who continue their studies at Lyndon State College.  He  helped establish the fund that created the Graham Newell Chair in Vermont History, which perpetuates the teaching of Vermont History at what is now NVU-Lyndon.  He created a fuel assistance fund with Community National Bank for the families of Vermont National Guard troops from the Lyndonville Armory who are deployed overseas.

     His proudest community service achievements involve work done on or near the Passumpsic River.  An avid canoeist, he coordinated the building of portages around the dams at Vail Station, Great Falls and Pierce's Mill with the Recreation Department at Lyndon State College and Lyndonville Electric Department.  As president of the Lyndonville Rotary Club he spearheaded the club's effort to clean up the Passumpsic River, his club having now removed over thirty-four tons of metal car parts, over four hundred tires and thousands of pounds of general trash from a five mile span of the river.  For this effort his club was awarded a presidential citation from Rotary International.  Other Rotary clubs have copied Lyndon's initiative and cleaned up rivers in their own communities, including St. Johnsbury, Montpelier and Hanover, New Hampshire.

     He is a charter member of the group known as Paths Around Lyndonville, established to create walking trails around the town.  In the summer of 2009 he helped coordinate the efforts of several government agencies, volunteer and service organizations to build a pedestrian walking path along the west bank of the Passumpsic River.  This process involved clearing a trail and the planting of  hundreds of small trees to help stabilize bank erosion.  The trail, called the "Rotary River Walkway," has become a favorite town pedestrian hiking spot.

     Joe and Deb love to travel, especially on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Joe has ridden through forty-nine states, every province and two territories in Canada, and one little town in Mexico.  He is also a certified scuba diver, enjoys hiking, and still plays a pretty mean guitar. 

     Joe serves as Senate Minority Leader, as chair of Senate Institutions, chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Judicial Rules and chair of the Senate Ethics Panel.  He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Rules Committee, the Joint Rules Committee, the Judicial Retention Committee and is vice-chair of the Senate Sexual Harassment Panel.  He has served on numerous ad hoc committees. His Senate colleagues nominated him to participate in the 2011 Emerging Leaders Program at the University of Virginia's Darden Business School.

     In the Senate he co-authored the bill that led to Vermont's expungement process, which has cleared the criminal records of over 14,000 Vermonters. He co-authored the bill that breaks up the so-called "Chittenden County Six-Pack" senatorial district in 2022.  He co-authored the bill for a tax & regulated cannabis system.  He authored the bill that created Vermont's Latin motto.  He secured 2.8 million dollars in the Capital Bill for completion of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail project.  He authored the law now requiring doctors to inform women with dense breast tissue of further options when investigating breast cancer. He has co-authored several bills on racial justice reforms.  He has fought to forestall closure of the Vermont State Colleges in Randolph, Johnson and Lyndon. He continues to fight for universal broadband, elimination of the military retirement tax, keeping Vermont affordable and maintaining Vermont's clean environment with Vermont-appropriate protections.
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