Gubernatorial candidate James Ehlers hires campaign manager

James Ehlers
James Ehlers, of Lake Champlain International. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Clean water activist James Ehlers, who began his campaign in late July for the 2018 gubernatorial election, announced Thursday that he has hired a campaign manager.

Ehlers, longtime executive director of the water quality advocacy group Lake Champlain International, chose former environmental lobbyist Theo Fetter. Ehlers is running as a Democrat.

For the time being, Fetter said his position is full-time but unpaid.

“We need to earn the trust and support of a good number more supporters and financial backers to be able to bring on staff,” Fetter said. “We’re not going to make a financial commitment that we can’t meet.”

But, Fetter said, if the campaign takes off and early fundraising efforts prove successful, he will be the first person added to the payroll.

“I technically am a volunteer, however I’m making an investment in (Ehlers) and this campaign,” Fetter added. “It’s a little bit of a leap of faith for me or anyone else that would be in my position.”

A graduate of Vermont Law School, Fetter most recently lobbied for clean energy policy on behalf of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) during the 2016 legislative session. Before that, Fetter spent two lears lobbying for the Necrason Group.

Fetter said that he left lobbying last year to volunteer for the gubernatorial campaigns of Matt Dunne and Sue Minter and for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Fetter’s environmental background is in keeping with the fledgling campaign’s focus on the environment.

The first priority of Ehlers’ campaign, Fetter said, is to improve the economy for everyday Vermonters. But, he added, another “central message for our campaign is that environmental health is economic health.”

While the campaign doesn’t have a formal staff yet, Fetter said there are around 50 supporters so far statewide who volunteer multiple times a week.

Fetter praised the professionalism and focus of early supporters. They are, he said, “sick of politics as usual and they’re sick of yet another say-anything-get-elected politician that Phil Scott has proven to be.”

Ehlers’ campaign, Fetter said, will be about “telling the truth and earning the trust of every Vermonter.”

Correction, Sept. 9, 12:15 p.m.: Theo Fetter’s last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

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