Governor Scott close to naming new Orwell-area house rep

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is conducting a second round of interviews this week with prospective candidates for the vacant Addison-Rutland House seat, in the wake of what his spokesperson said has been a dearth of candidates for the position representing Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting and Benson.
Former longtime Addison-Rutland Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham, was one of those initial applicants vying for the right to succeed Rep. Alyson Eastman, I-Orwell. Eastman resigned in December after Scott picked her to serve as his deputy secretary of agriculture. But Stevens confirmed on Tuesday the Scott administration had yet to invite him to interview for his old job.
“I’d like to see it resolved one way or another so that the district will be represented ASAP,” said Stevens, who went unchallenged in his four consecutive elections for the seat that had previously been held by former Orwell Republican Mark Young.
“For whatever reason I am apparently not on their short list,” Stevens added.
That changed on Tuesday afternoon, however, when Stevens asked for — and was granted — an interview that was scheduled to place on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
The Addison-Rutland seat remains vacant five weeks into the 2017 legislative session. It should be noted that Scott is beginning his first term as the state’s top executive and has been acclimating himself to the position while filling various cabinet posts.
Rebecca Kelley, Scott’s director of communications, provided the following update on the Addison-Rutland representative search in a Feb. 3 emailed response to the Independent’s most recent inquiry:
“Wanting to ensure the best possible candidate was selected, we went out to encourage more individuals to apply,” she wrote. “We received more applicants and have a number of new interviews scheduled for early next week.”
Kelley added Scott could announce the Addison-Rutland replacement as soon as the end of this week.
Stevens served the Addison-Rutland House district for eight years before taking a pass on re-election in 2014. At the time, Stevens said he needed some time to “re-charge his batteries” and devote more time to Golden Russet Farm, which he co-owns with his wife, Judy.
Stevens has pronounced his batteries recharged, and on Dec. 23 informed Jason Gibbs, Scott’s chief of staff, of his interest in serving out the term of Eastman, who was re-elected unopposed last November.
Stevens as of Tuesday morning had yet to be informed of the status of his candidacy, precipitating this email to Rachel Feldman, Scott’s senior director of Boards, Commissions and Public Service:
“I am curious as to the status of the appointment process for a replacement to the Addison-Rutland District House seat,” Stevens wrote. “I haven’t heard anything from the governor’s office since your email of January 17.”
Stevens contacted the Independent on Tuesday afternoon to confirm he had just been invited for a Wednesday interview.
Chapter 17, section 2623 of the Vermont Statutes Annotated allows the governor to request the political party or parties of the departing lawmaker to submit one or more recommendations for a successor. The governor can then pick from the party’s list, or select a successor of his or her choice. But since Eastman is not affiliated with a major party, Scott will be able to freelance in picking someone from within the four-town district.
Vermont governors have historically made a point of replacing representatives with lawmakers of the same party affiliation. But there have been other precedents: As reported by this scribe back in January of 1996, then-Gov. Howard Dean picked fellow Democrat Carl Reidel of Ferrisburgh to replace Rep. Roger Kayhart, a longtime Waltham Republican who had left the GOP to become an independent, but then resigned his Addison-1 House post due to health issues.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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