Candidate for Maine State Senate District 16
Through two different upbringings, Hilary learned the value of a good education and the value of the dollar. Her mother battled medical challenges and was grateful for food stamps and neighbors who shared their hunting meat in the winter. Her father, a Vietnam veteran, worked hard to make sure his children could see the world and would never have to worry about the cost of college. Both parents instilled the beliefs that no matter their circumstance, there was always room at their dinner table for another person, and that helping others was a responsibility and a blessing.
From teaching literacy to adults, to working with children in the foster care system, to helping people suffering from opioid addiction, Hilary has carried out the lessons her parents taught her. She began her professional life as a teacher, working with students at all levels of education from Pre-K through college. She encouraged every student to analyze problems critically and to "think globally but act locally." Consequently, she engaged students in community outreach and service programs, including outdoor education programs aimed at teaching students to respect our earth, raising money for the local homeless shelter, and serving food in a soup kitchen.
Hilary believes that communities can thrive when we identify problems and work together to solve them. Hilary’s experiences as a caregiver for her youngest son, who was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at the age of 6 months and type 1 diabetes at the age of 2 ½ years, and later also for her grandfather, led her to advocate for legislation that provides everyone with access to quality and affordable healthcare and prescription drugs. For more than a decade, she has been a “pancreas” for her son, learning not only how to care for his medical needs, but also how to fight to get the care, the medicine and the supplies to keep him alive. In 2016, frustrated by the lack of advances in medical technology, Koch joined a worldwide open-source and built her son a "Do-It-Yourself Artificial Pancreas System." Through this project, Hilary has learned that when people find common ground and shared goals, true innovation and successful problem solving happens.
Hilary lives in Waterville, Maine with her husband, their two teenage boys who attend Waterville public schools and her 99-year old grandfather. Hilary is Commissioner on the Waterville Charter Commission, she volunteers with Operation H.O.P.E. (Heroin Opiate Prevention Effort) through the Waterville Police Department and sings in her church choir.
Any Mainer who cares for someone with health issues or has health needs of their own understands; families go broke over healthcare. People shouldn't be forced to choose between paying bills or staying alive. Affordable access to quality healthcare and pharmaceutical drugs should therefore be a basic right, not a privilege. Additionally, access to lifesaving medications should always be available in an emergency situation.
Maine has an aging and declining population. Job creation and trade skills must be our priorities. Maine-educated and trained students need incentives to put their skills to good use here in Maine. Hilary supports incentive programs that offer loan forgiveness for students who have completed higher degrees and commit to staying in Maine and putting their skills to work. It's important to recognize that people can't stay in Maine if they can't earn a living wage or grow roots. We know that Mainers aren't afraid of hard work, but good-paying jobs and reasonable taxes are needed to make this a reality.
Providing our children with a solid education helps to prepare them for the future, but it also helps to address many of our public concerns. As a former teacher, and as a parent, Hilary understands that quality education shouldn't be determined by a zip code. Communities simply can't hire and retain the best teachers, let alone give them the materials they need to teach, without competitive salaries. Teachers shouldn’t be compelled to teach to standardized exams, and students shouldn’t have to choose between STEM, woodshop or foreign language classes. We must find ways to aid communities with financial and programmatic solutions.
Hilary believes that leaving the world a better place than when we entered it is everyone's responsibility. Schools teach children to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but it's our job to make that easier for individuals. Maine landscapes are second to none - we need to keep them that way by protecting our environment and supporting renewable energy. As Maine expands sustainability and green energy practices, it is bound to create new economic and employment opportunities for generations to come. Maine should lead in this area as it does in others.
A desire to serve and a wealth of ideas aren’t enough. We need leaders who bring us together in ways that strengthen us. We can disagree and have passionate debates, but how we disagree matters. Name-calling and personal attacks have no place in civil discourse. The public is better served when we work together. Hilary is committed to making sure that happens.