Minter joins race for governor
VERMONT — After weeks of discreet coordination around who would replace her as Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, Sue Minter resigned from the agency Thursday morning before announcing her intentions to run for governor in 2016 in an email sent out minutes later.
“I am running for governor to keep working for a better future; by growing our economy, supporting working families and preserving our environment for the next generation,” Minter said in her announcement email. “I look forward to conversations with Vermonters about our vision for Vermont’s future.”
Minter cannot file the necessary paperwork to become a candidate until she finishes at VTrans, and her campaign will hold a formal launch event in October.
Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Minter, a Harvard and MIT graduate, as transportation secretary in January. She previously served deputy secretary of VTrans from 2011 to 2014, according to her website biography.
Shumlin appointed then Deputy Secretary Minter as the state’s Chief Irene Recovery Officer after the devastating tropical storm damaged more than 500 miles of road and 34 bridges in the state. The state’s road rebuilding process took 16 weeks, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“That experience really led me to see how much Vermonters can accomplish when they work together,” Minter told VTDigger. “Vermont wants a leader that will make Vermont work, and I’m going to be that governor.
“Where I see problems, I also see potential,” she added.
Minter said she began mulling a run after Shumlin announced he was not seeking re-election. She coordinated with the governor and others over the last couple of weeks to ensure the agency would be in good hands following her resignation.
In a news release announcing the ascent of Deputy Secretary Chris Cole to secretary, Shumlin praised Minter’s work for the state.
“For four years, Sue Minter has been working hard to keep Vermonters moving forward,” Shumlin said. “Whether it was overseeing recovery efforts following Irene, steadily improving Vermont’s transportation infrastructure, or managing one of the largest agencies in state government, Sue has been an invaluable asset to the state of Vermont.”
Two Republicans so far, Wall Street mogul Bruce Lisman and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, have also announced runs for governor in 2016 and the entrance of a third Democrat in the race, after House Speaker Shap Smith and Matt Dunne, a Google executive, does not hurt the GOP’s prospects in 2016, according to Vermont GOP Chairman Dave Sunderland.
While Minter might have the closest ties to the Shumlin administration, none of the Democratic candidates have objected to unpopular Shumlin policies.
“We feel very confident that Vermonters are ready for a change,” Sunderland said. “The continuation of the failed policies of the past five years are not something they are interested in, they are looking for a new direction.”
Minter was celebrated for her work after Irene, and was appointed by Shumlin to President Barack Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, and co-chaired the White House Task Force Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Resilience.
When Colorado was hard hit by flooding in September 2013, Minter led a team from Vermont to help the state coordinate efforts to rebuild.
Minter has also strongly advocated for upgrades to state and national transportation infrastructure, and was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Public Works Committee by Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2014.
“Reducing or eliminating transportation projects translates into job losses in the construction industry,” Minter told the committee. “In a small state like ours, this can tip the balance on our fragile economic recovery.”
Minter, 54, also served four terms as a State Representative, serving Waterbury, Duxbury, Huntington and Buel’s Gore. Her committee assignments included the House Appropriations and Transportation committees.
The 2016 race with both Republican and Democratic primaries is shaping up to be one of the most contentious gubernatorial fights in years. And there may yet be a third GOP candidate and a Progressive who jump into the fray, political observers say.
“It’s good to have a competitive primary,” said Smith, who served in the Legislature with Minter. “I’m looking forward to going around the state and talking to people and sharing my vision for Vermont.”
Rep. Chris Pearson, the House Progressive caucus leader, said the party was disappointed by many of Shumlin’s actions as governor. He said the Progressive Party was planning to field a gubernatorial candidate in 2016.
“I cannot share any names, but there has been a lot of discussion on finding a candidate and running a strong campaign,” Pearson said.
Eric Davis, a retired political science professor from Middlebury College, said Minter could mount a powerful campaign based on the effectiveness of her management of a state agency.
“A big issue is going to be managerial competence, as state government hasn’t been able to deliver on things it said it would do, including Vermont Health Connect,” Davis said. “Sue Minter has a very good record in her post as Secretary of Transportation.”
Minter said she had helped the state reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in her tenure VTrans, and pointed to her experience running the second largest agency in the state, one with a $600 million budget and 1,300 employees.
She said Vermonters are looking for a leader who can point to tangible achievements, adding, “Clearly, I’m someone who gets things done.”