I never expected to start my first term in the New Hampshire Senate standing in a parking lot at the University of New Hampshire, but there I was. Bundled up on a windy December morning, I and my 23 new colleagues took our oath to serve the people of New Hampshire. It is an oath I take seriously.

For the next two years, it will be my honor and privilege to serve the people of District 9, including those who voted for me, those who backed my opponent, and those who didn’t vote. I promise to work hard, listen to my constituents, and always vote for the best interests of our state.

I am pleased to be serving on the Senate Education Committee. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of tremendous disruption to our students, but it has also revealed our capacity to adapt. Hybrid and remote instruction are not ideal, but they do offer new ways to connect to students. Some students have struggled with learning online, while others have thrived. We should learn from this, and work to find better ways to connect to every student, knowing that each child will respond differently.

As we move forward, let’s take this opportunity to bring innovation and creativity to our schools. Let’s embrace the promise of public charter schools, give local school districts greater flexibility, and empower parents and students to put together the best possible education. We’ve been talking about an “adequate” education for 20 years. Let’s aim for excellence.

We’re taking an overdue step toward innovation by accepting the first round of funding under a $46 million federal grant meant to build on New Hampshire’s successful public charter school system. These funds will allow existing public charter schools to expand, and provide start-up funds for new schools. By creating new and innovative ways to educate students, these public schools offer parents new choices for their children as well as injecting new ideas into our public school system for other districts to copy.

I have also been asked to sit on the Senate Transportation Committee. This will give me the chance to set our state’s transportation priorities for the next decade when we update the Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan. I look forward to hearing your priorities and concerns.

My third committee is Senate Executive Departments and Administration. This committee serves as a watchdog over the state agencies that make up state government. As a freshman senator, this will give me a crash course in the structure and duties of state government, and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Perhaps, the largest and most challenging task before us in 2021 is crafting the state’s two-year budget. While the pandemic has hit our state hard, forcing thousands of Granite Staters out of work and slowing down our state’s robust economy, New Hampshire is in better economic shape than most states. But this budget cycle will be tough. We will not be able to afford the new spending that some may want. We must remember that every dollar we spend comes out of the pocket of New Hampshire taxpayers, and they can not afford higher taxes. I will remain diligent in defending the New Hampshire Advantage, fighting for fiscal discipline and low taxes. We must make sure that we pass a responsible state budget that meets our needs without passing on a higher burden to employers or local property taxpayers.

I remain humbled to serve as your state senator. I will work hard every day to make sure I never let you down. I wish you and yours a safe and healthy holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. I can’t wait to get to work when the Senate convenes in January.

Sen. Denise Ricciardi, R-Bedford, represents N.H. Senate District 9, which includes the local towns of Dublin, Fitzwilliam, Greenfield, Hancock, Jaffrey, Peterborough, Richmond and Troy.