Governor-elect Phil Scott’s first round of appointments came on Thanksgiving Eve. And honestly, the announcement was a touch underwhelming.
Nothing against the four appointees. But c’mon, three members of his transition team and the sole staffer in the Lieutenant Governor’s office? Did it really take three weeks to pluck the lowest-hanging fruit?
Would it be churlish of me to point out that in November 2010, Peter Shumlin had his inner circle in place less than ten days after the election, and had begun to fill out his cabinet by this point? Perhaps, but compared to the last Governor-elect, Phil Scott’s off to a slow start.
(Irony Alert: When Shumlin took office, he made it clear that the single focus of his administration wouild be job creation. It’s deja vu all over again, just like last time.)
Also, it’d be reassuring to see at least one appointee who’s not a member of The Usual Suspects.
No sign of ideological diversity. No sign of much beyond loyalty to the incoming Governor. Except that two of the four come from the ranks of Statehouse business lobbyists*, so there’s that.
*Kendal Smith, lobbyist for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. Jason Gibbs, whose communications firm did most of its business repping big corporations. What viewpoint, a liberal might wonder, will a former lobbyist for Big Pharma bring to the next round of health care reform deliberations?
In fairness, the inner circle isn’t usually a place for diverse views; it’s for people willing to be a subservient member of the governor’s team and do their best to carry out his agenda, instead of advancing their own.
On the other other hand, it’s not exactly heartening to hear Jason Gibbs talk about the managerial successes of the Douglas administration (creator of the disastrous Challenges for Change initiative); or see on Kendal Smith’s resume that she fundraised for, and worked in the administration of, the disastrous Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; or recall Brittney Wilson’s inept efforts to depict Phil Scott as thoroughly pro-choice while also loudly dog-whistling the anti-abortion community*. Those are small bur worrying signs. And subsuming their personal beliefs aside, these people will have the Governor’s ear on a daily basis. That’s a powerful thing.
*Wilson on Vermont Right To Life, 10/31/16:
“You have an organization that supports — that’s pro-life. That is not dangerous or harmful, in some respect, to other people. I think it’s — I don’t see this being a group that he would say, ‘Absolutely not, stay away.’”
The other new appointee, Rachel Feldman, is the least political of the four hires. And she’s in the least political of the four jobs: she’ll do some legislative outreach, although Kendal Smith will take the lead on that front. Feldman will also handle “constituent services and planning of trade missions and other events.”
It’s still far too early to make any definitive judgments.Plenty of time, and plenty of room left for the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that the Governor-elect promised. Still, like I said, a bit late and a little underwhelming.