Op/Ed

Editorial: With thanks, Rep. Harvey Smith

HARVEY SMITH

As the lone Republican representing Addison County in Vermont’s legislature, Rep. Harvey Smith’s announcement this week that he will not seek re-election in November sparks a moment of political reflection: It wasn’t that long ago that more than half of the county’s delegation was Republican, including in the Senate, and of those Republicans (particularly during the civil union debates of the late 1990s amid the cries of “take back, Vermont”), several were very conservative by Addison County standards.

The news of Harvey’s decision is too fresh to have any inkling of who might step up to vie for that seat, but the prospect of an all-Democratic delegation (even though this is in a conservative district) is somewhat shocking in that historical context — and not wholly desirable. The two-party system works best when members of both parties push toward a common goal and make compromises to achieve the best possible legislation. That largely happens in Montpelier where there’s still a strong enough Republican influence — mainly from the governor’s office — to make a contrary voice heard.

At the legislative committee level, Vermont is fortunate that reasonable voices like Rep. Smith’s also are able to rise above politics that puts the party first.

Addison County can be proud that Rep. Smith represented the county’s — and the state’s — agriculture interests as well as he did for most of the past 20 years. They can be proud that he helped his constituents resolve their particular problems with state bureaucracy, and that he reveled in such work. They can be proud that Rep. Smith maintained a reasonable and congenial decorum in his discussions on all issues and respected those who had differing points of view.

One might think we should not have to remark on a legislator’s ability to listen to others, keep an open mind and be civil, but in contrast to what we see on the national landscape and in other state governments, Vermonters shouldn’t forget how privileged we are to maintain a working, pragmatic and civil legislature that — all things considered — works well together.

Kudos to Rep. Smith for his years of service to his district, Addison County and the state. It’s never an easy job to be in the minority party and still have an effective voice. Rep. Smith did that well, and did it with grace and a hearty laugh. He’ll be missed.

Angelo Lynn

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