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Former Shoreham farmer picked to fill vacated House position

SHOREHAM — Longtime Shoreham resident and former farmer Terry Norris this week replaced former Addison-Rutland House Rep. Alyson Eastman, I-Orwell. Norris, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Scott on Monday and sworn in at a Statehouse ceremony on Tuesday, now represents Shoreham, Whiting, Orwell and Benson in the Vermont House.
Eastman, who was re-elected to her second term last November, resigned from the post in late December after Scott picked her to serve as his deputy secretary of agriculture.
Norris, 68, co-owned and operated a 1,250-acre dairy farm in Shoreham for nearly 40 years. That farm is now headquarters to WhistlePig Rye Whiskey. Norris operated his own photography business for 23 years, and he currently works on the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry during the spring through fall. A native Vermonter, he has resided in Shoreham since 1960. Norris holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Tri-State University in Angola, Ind.
Norris identifies himself as an independent, but acknowledged he agrees with Scott, a Republican, on most issues. He said on Wednesday he has already been in touch with Republican minority leadership in the House about the prospect of participating in GOP caucuses. He added he could see himself caucusing with both major parties.
“I’m a little nervous, but excited,” Scott said of his sudden ascension from ferry captain to lawmaker. “I’d like to do some worthy things for our state and the four towns I represent.”
This is Norris’s first foray into state politics. His civic resume includes a stint on the St. Mary’s Catholic School board. He currently serves as financial secretary for the Middlebury Knights of Columbus.
Scott, through a press release, cited Norris’s background in farming as a particular asset to the Legislature.
“Like Rep. Eastman, Terry has a history in farming and values the role agriculture plays in our culture, as well as its importance to Vermont’s economy, which was important in making this selection,” said Gov. Scott. “I’m glad to have identified someone with a passion for representing the interests of the people of Shoreham, Orwell, Whiting and Benson, and who understands the economic and affordability challenges Vermonters in the region are facing. He will be a strong advocate for the community, and I look forward to working with him.”
After being sworn in Tuesday, Norris officially took his place on the House Committee on Agriculture and Forestry on Wednesday afternoon.
Scott administration spokesperson Rebecca Kelley said Norris was one of five candidates who applied for the Addison-Rutland House vacancy. Two people initially applied, but the governor reopened the search and recently interviewed another three hopefuls — including former Addison-Rutland Rep. Will Stevens, I-Shoreham.
Stevens, who represented Addison-Rutland from 2007-2015, also had strong farming credentials. He and his wife, Judy, operate Shoreham’s Golden Russet Farm. Stevens previously served on the House Agriculture Committee.
Stevens declined to comment on the outcome of the interviewing process.
“The governor considered all candidates and felt Terry was the best candidate to serve the people of this district,” Kelley said. “He has a similar background to Rep. Eastman, while also bringing a fresh perspective, which reflected what the governor heard residents were looking for in a representative. With that in mind, and his experience in both agriculture and business, the governor believes Terry is the best candidate to represent the needs of the district.”
Eastman — who is settling into her new role as deputy secretary of agriculture — has known Norris for many years and suggested he apply for the Addison-Rutland vacancy.
“I think he’ll do a good job,” Eastman said during a phone interview. “I thank Terry for taking this on, knowing we are close to crossover and town meeting.”
Crossover is the point at which bills must be passed out of legislative committees in order to be considered by the full House or Senate this session.
Norris said he’s looking forward to tackling major issues facing farmers, including declining milk prices and clean water regulations that relate to farm runoff into Lake Champlain and its tributaries.
Norris believes it will take around three to four weeks for him to get settled into the Statehouse and get accustomed to the legislative process.
“Everyone so far has been very understanding,” he said.
At this point, Norris believes he will run for the Addison-Rutland seat when it is up for grabs in November of 2018.
Scott on Monday also announced the re-appointment of Rebecca Holcombe as Secretary of Education.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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