Leaving the Golden Dome: Senators and staffers who won’t be back

Some members of the Legislature and its staff heard the final gavel of their Statehouse career on Saturday. The service of all representatives and senators continues at the pleasure of voters in November, of course, but some have already indicated that they will not be back.

The following collection of profiles of people moving on is not intended to be comprehensive; some people may be keeping their intentions to leave the Legislature to themselves until after the session is over. These are the ones I caught up with who confirmed that they are leaving. Yesterday, VTDigger published profiles of reps who are moving on.

Senate

Randy Brock, R-Franklin

The two-term senator and former one-term auditor is running for the Republican nomination for governor. A member of the Finance Committee, Brock said he’s proud that Vermont produces a balanced budget every year, which, he said, was unique among states. The former Fidelity Investment executive said, “I have hopefully played a role to add a bit of both financial sensitivity and, I would like to think, at least a small force to promote financial responsibility.” He acknowledged that he wasn’t as successful as he would have liked in restraining spending growth, which he called “unsustainable.”

Senator Randy Brock. VTD/Josh Larkin

Senator Randy Brock. VTD/Josh Larkin

Brock said one of the lessons he learned as a senator was patience. He also pointed to collegiality, saying, “It’s very clear that you get little done if you can’t get along with people.”

Brock would like to see the chance to serve in the Legislature open to more Vermonters. “It’s only a relatively few people, particularly people of working age, who can afford to serve in the Legislature. It shifts the kind of citizen legislator we have to not necessarily be representative of Vermonters as a whole.” Asked if he would like to see higher pay for legislators, Brock answered, laughing, “Absolutely — and I would like free money to be able to provide it.”

(A number of departing legislators said they were leaving because it was too difficult to combine other work and legislative service; see the comments of Bert Munger and Oliver Olsen, below.)

There are two Republicans vying to succeed him in the Senate, Brock said, and he thinks both would do a fine job.

Sen. Vince Illuzzi. VTD/Josh Larkin

Sen. Vince Illuzzi. VTD/Josh Larkin

Vince Illuzzi, R-Essex-Orleans

Asked whether he’s planning to run for re-election to the Senate, the 16-term senator said in email, “I’m going to survey Vermonters over next two weeks to see if I should run for treasurer. Or auditor or AG.” Illuzzi has hired a consultant.

Hinda Miller, D-Chittenden

After 10 years in the Senate, Miller indicated that it is just time to be moving on.

“I have learned all the lessons I need to learn in the Senate,” she said. She is looking forward to the publication later this month of her book, “Pearls of a Sultana: What I’ve Learned About Business, Politics, and the Human Spirit,” which will be launched at a party in Burlington that doubles as her retirement party on May 24. Sultanas, she explained, are “women of a certain age … who live consciously and have a commitment to moving the world forward, by leading if they have to.” She added, “You have sultanas in your own life, and once you recognize them, you have to buy them jewelry.”

Sen. Hinda Miller, D-Burlington

Sen. Hinda Miller, D-Burlington

When I asked about lessons from her time in the Legislature, Miller told me to read the book. And I was apparently so disconcerted at the prospect of needing to buy jewelry for all the sultanas in my life that I neglected entirely to ask her about which legislative accomplishments she was most proud of.

Miller is not endorsing any particular successor at this point, but she says she’ll work for whomever is running. In fact, her retirement/book launch party is also a fundraiser for the Vermont State Senate Democratic Campaigns.

Staff

Tom Cheney, Aide to the Speaker

Tom Cheney is taking a job with Rep. Peter Welch in Washington. Read the VTDigger story here.

Marlene Verlander

The House passes hundreds of resolutions each year; they address everything from House rules to designating a “Genetic Equity Day” or honoring such groups as women veterans or individual Vermonters who have umpired the college softball world series or achieved other milestones. Verlander has processed those resolutions for the last 15 years, including creating the copy that is presented to the group or individual honored. Now she says she is moving on to retirement activities: camp for the summer, then New Mexico, and visiting a grandchild in North Carolina. At the end of the session, the House honored her with a specially numbered resolution. Even though the normal sequence would have put her resolution in the 400s, her resolution was number 3,000, signifying the over 3,000 resolutions she has processed in 15 years.

One of the lessons she learned in her 15 years was, she said, “Generally, all of the representatives are very considerate. They might come in and ask for a presentation copy of a resolution like this (snapping her fingers), but then they’ll add, ‘Now Marlene, when you get to it.’ They didn’t ever make me feel pressured.”

Pages

Each year, 30 Vermont eighth-graders serve as pages in the House. Visitors can see them walking through the building with handfuls of pink slips, each one bearing a message to a legislator. They will search the committee rooms, the cafeteria, and even walk out onto the House or Senate floor when body is in formal session to deliver messages from people in the building or callers. Each page serves for six weeks, with three groups cycling through the building during the session.

While the latest group had left when I started interviews for this article — they were not held for the final Saturday. Sergeant-at-Arms Francis Brooks oversees the page program. “The duties they perform are very often essential,” he said, “and the place would definitely slow down without them.”

The pages also do their schoolwork at the Statehouse, in between carrying messages. Brooks sometimes tutors them, a practice he started while serving as a House member. While Brooks was a House member, I once came across algebraic symbols on a chalkboard in the room of a committee with a non-mathematical mission. Another member speculated that Brooks had been there, tutoring the pages. Brooks admitted that the hypothesis may have been accurate. “Having been a science and math teacher, it often falls to my lot to help someone with their math. It’s a wonderful time to divert from all the other pressures here. Not everyone is able to spend a little time trying to solve simultaneous equations on an afternoon.”

Brooks said he’s not aware of any former pages currently in the Legislature, but he knows of at least one on the staff.

I asked about future plans of this year’s pages. “These are eighth-graders,” he pointed out with a twinkle in his eye. “The best I can think of is that they will be striving for ninth grade.”

Carl EtnierCarl Etnier

Comments

  1. Bob Stannard :

    all of the above will be missed in the building. I would hope Sen. Illuzzi would reconsider. Those who know him know that he can be difficult in negotiations, but I’ve known Vince for 30 years and can say without a doubt that he is one of the most effective and powerful senators to have ever served.

    I would also say that in my time in the building I have never seen an aide to the Speaker as savvy and accomplished as Thomas Cheney. This young man is a true rock star in my book. Good luck to you, Thomas.

  2. Tom Cheney = rock star

  3. walter moses :

    vince illuzzi will be greatly missed in the senate. he would make a great AG!

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