Scheu to stress business strengths in run for Vt. House

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Democrat Robin Scheu has spent the past 15 years considering a run for the state Legislature.
This is the year she puts her campaign into motion.
Scheu, executive director of the Addison County Economic Development Corp. (ACEDC), confirmed on Monday she will run for one of the two seats representing Middlebury in the Vermont House. Her decision was fanned by the recent announcement by Rep. Betty Nuovo, D-Middlebury, to call it quits this year after three decades in the House.
It was another retirement — that of former Sen. Gerry Gossens, D-Salisbury — that prompted Scheu to consider a run for one of Addison County’s two state Senate seats back in 2004.
“I wasn’t ready to (run) then in a lot of ways,” Scheu said. “But now, with Betty leaving … that opens up the opportunity.”
Rep. Amy Sheldon, D-Middlebury, is rounding out her first term holding Middlebury’s second seat and is expected to run for re-election. An open seat often results in early, heightened interest from prospective candidates. A primary runoff election would be needed this August if three or more Democrats were to enter the race.
The Addison-1 House district has failed to attract many Republican candidates of late. Middlebury has shown itself to be one of the “bluest” House districts in the state.
Scheu, 59, and her husband, Ted, moved to Middlebury from the Boston area 24 years ago. She arrived in Addison County with a wealth of experience in the world of finance. Scheu was a Bank of Boston executive who led hundreds of employees within the institution’s commercial lending department, which had a loan portfolio of around $130 million at the time. She moved on to the bank’s retail division, running a $3 billion operation with 500 employees and 42 branch locations around Boston.
Scheu left Bank of Boston to join what was Bank of Vermont in Burlington, then moved on to jobs leading several Middlebury-based nonprofits.
Specifically, her résumé includes stints as manager of the Addison County Solid Waste Management District and interim director of the Middlebury Area Land Trust, before being appointed in 2008 to the job she currently holds: executive director of the ACEDC. Her role with the organization has seen her help aspiring entrepreneurs secure loans and grants to start up businesses. Scheu has also worked to woo new businesses to Addison County in an effort to expand the region’s tax base and workforce.
If elected in November, Scheu hopes to parlay her business acumen and experience into a plum committee assignment to serve Middlebury residents. Based on her background, she would appear best suited to a spot on the House Commerce & Economic Development Committee. But she noted economic development is not just about promoting and facilitating new industries; it’s also directly linked to other issues that routinely make headlines under the Golden Dome, including agriculture, health care and education.
“My focus is the economy, but the economy is broad,” Scheu said. “Economic development is a whole series of actions and policies and conditions that improve the quality of life for the citizens of an area.”
Plans call for Scheu to continue working as executive director of the ACEDC, and she believes her presence in Montpelier would be an asset for the organization and for economic development interests in general.
“It’s almost like another service I can offer,” Scheu said.
She will not need a map of the Statehouse. Scheu has made multiple trips to Montpelier during the past two decades to testify for various causes, and has served on some legislative summer study committees, including one that dealt with the issue of awarding driver ID cards to migrant workers.
Last year, Scheu agreed to serve on Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith’s economic advisory council. She has chaired the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont Smart Growth boards. She serves on the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund Board, and served for four years on the state’s Working Lands Enterprise Board, a panel that gives technical assistance and other help to grow land-dependent businesses.
“It ties into the notion of ‘smart growth,’ and sustainable development at an appropriate scale,” Scheu said.
“To me, the climate change issue and working lands are two examples of how we, in Vermont, are proactive in trying to solve real problems and being creative.”
Education, Scheu said, is a major contributor to economic development. As such, she’s a big supporter of efforts to educate the state’s workforce, ranging from pre-K to post-secondary programs. She’s also a fan of Vermont’s vocational-technical centers.
“I think the Hannaford Career Center has done a great job with the limited resources that they have,” Scheu said. “They created the meat cutters program and have a lot of other adult tech-ed things.
“Not every job requires a college degree, and not everybody should got to college,” she added. “But everybody wants a good job, and the career center is a place where that can happen for a lot of people.”
Scheu, a former chairwoman of the Mary Hogan Elementary School (ID-4) board, was pleased to see the school governance unification referenda pass in the Addison Central and Addison Northwest supervisory unions.
“People put a lot of work into that,” she said.
In addition to her service on the ID-4 board, Scheu has served locally as a member of Middlebury’s first conservation commission, and on a panel that during the mid-1990s looked at potential sites for a new municipal building and gym. The finishing touches are being put on those new buildings right now. And coincidentally, the new town offices are being built at the former siting committee’s preferred location (77 Main St.), according to Scheu.
Other campaign issues that Scheu will be emphasizing during the coming months include:
•  Health care reform.
“I believe people have a right to have affordable access to health care,” Scheu said. “How we do that is another story.”
She would like to see the current system simplified. Scheu was, for a brief period, a consumer of the Canadian single-payer health care system and reported receiving “wonderful service,” and said she “can see the benefits of universal health care.”
That said, she does not see an easy solution to the state — and nation’s — health care dilemma.
“There’s no road map for changing to a new system,” Scheu said. “If there was a road map, we would have changed (health care systems) long ago.”
•  Making the upcoming rail bridges replacement project in downtown Middlebury as painless as possible for local businesses, property owners, residents and shoppers.
•  The potential for a roundabout at the intersection of Route 7 and Exchange Street.
Scheu plans to run a very active campaign and spend a lot of time talking to Middlebury residents about their priorities.
“To have an opportunity to be in Montpelier to create, influence, impact policy that can help Middlebury is a pretty exciting thing to think about for me,” she said. “I like that a lot. I love this town. I have been here for 24 years. I want do what I can to keep it a great town.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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