Governor-elect Phil Scott Wednesday at the Statehouse
Governor-elect Phil Scott has named several alumni of former Republican governor Jim Douglas’ administration to guide his transition to office. Speaking Wednesday afternoon at his first press conference since winning the state’s top office, Scott said the new team would immediately get started writing a state budget guided by his campaign promise to slow state spending.
“The people of Vermont have given us a mandate for fiscal responsibility,” the Berlin Republican said, standing in the Statehouse lobby in front of a bust of Abraham Lincoln. “I am putting together a very capable team to make sure we have a strong budget in place, that the transition is smooth for Vermonters and that we accomplish the goals we set during the election.”
Scott, a six-year lieutenant governor and co-owner of a Middlesex excavation company, defeated Democrat Sue Minter 52 to 43 percent in Tuesday’s election. He will replace retiring Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin on January 5.
Though several of Scott’s initial picks come from the Douglas administration, he said he would look “outside the box” as he fills out his cabinet and staff. “Being a Republican isn’t a litmus test,” he said.
“What I’m looking for is talent — people who understand the economy is important,” he added.
Tim Hayward, who spent eight years as Douglas’ chief of staff, will lead the transition team, Scott said at Wednesday’s press conference. Hayward played a similar role in 2002, as Douglas prepared to succeed former governor Howard Dean.
Neale Lunderville, who served as secretary of administration and transportation under Douglas, will chair Scott’s budget development committee. Now general manager of Burlington Electric Department, Lunderville also spent four months in the Shumlin administration as the Democrat’s first Tropical Storm Irene recovery officer.
“I’ll get the budget process off to a fast start and pointed in the right direction,”
Lunderville said Wednesday. He will continue working at BED while he volunteers for the transition team.
Scott turned to two women to help hire staff for his new administration: Debbie Winters, owner of Firetech Sprinkler in Colchester, and Rep. Laura Sibilia, (I-Dover), the director of economic and workforce development for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation. They will head what Scott is calling his Transition Leadership Advisory Committee. Winters contributed to Scott’s campaign and hosted an economic development press conference during the governor-elect’s campaign.
Jason Gibbs, who served as Douglas’ spokesman and then commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation, is also playing a senior role on Scott’s transition team. He was a key adviser during the campaign.
Three campaign staffers — coordinator Brittney Wilson, spokesman Ethan Latour and scheduler Tracy Delude — will work on the transition team. Scott’s lieutenant gubernatorial chief of staff, Rachel Feldman, will also assist it.
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Governor-elect Phil Scott’s transition office at 144 State Street
The new team started work Wednesday morning out of an office at 144 State State Street in Montpelier. The office was fitted up in recent weeks by the Shumlin administration. The legislature appropriated a budget of $65,000 to fund the transition.
Scott will take office in January, just before Republican president-elect Donald Trump moves into the White House. Scott denounced Trump during the campaign, but he sounded a conciliatory note on Wednesday.
“There is a deep amount of trepidation, I think, for the future,” he said. “But at the same time I think we all need to pull together and realize we have a democracy in place.”
Scott pledged during the election that he would move Vermont to a federal or multistate health insurance exchange. But Trump’s promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act could complicate those plans.
“We’ll see,” Scott said Wednesday. “I know there are a lot of campaign promises made on the national level.”
Scott said he would take office before deciding what to do about the troubled Vermont Health Connect and Shumlin’s recently inked all-payer model agreement with the federal government.
The governor-elect indicated that he would consider but is unlikely to appoint Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman, the newly elected lieutenant governor, to his cabinet. When Scott served on Shumlin’s cabinet, he said, “I’m not sure that benefited either party.”
But he said he does plan to hit up Shumlin for advice. The two are expected to talk Thursday, he said.
“I want to talk to him about what he’s been through,” Scott said.