Tag Archives: Agency of Transportation

This could take a little air out of the Sue Minter balloon

Of all the state’s cabinet positions, the Agency of Transportation is one of the friendlier posts for an ambitious politico. Everybody’s in favor of roads and highways, including conservative Republicans. A lot of your funding comes from the feds. You make friends with the generous donors in the construction business. You get to do a whole lot of high-profile announcements and ribbon-cuttings. You get to look strong and purposeful in times of trouble.

It’s unlikely that, say, Human Services would be a stepping stone to higher office. (Just ask Doug “Sacrificial Lamb” Racine.) But Transportation Secretary Sue Minter? She’s got high hopes for the governorship, or so it is said.

Which is not to say that trouble can’t erupt, seemingly out of nowhere. Dan D’Ambrosio of the Burlington Free Press:

Three former employees of the Vermont Agency of Transportation say they were verbally abused — and in one case physically abused — and passed over for promotions and pay raises because they are gay and lesbian.

Oopsie. The three, who all quit to get away from the abuse, have filed a discrimination lawsuit. The details are not pretty.

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Sue Minter is building herself quite the resumé

Rockin' the hard hat.

Rockin’ the hard hat.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter is usually the first female in otherwise male-dominated lists of Democratic politicos on the rise. (ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz, who finished a strong #3 in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, deserves mention as well; but the grapevine says she’s unlikely to make another run for elective office. That could change, of course.) She briefly broke through the GruberGruberGruber wall of news noise this week, with the announcement that AOT Secretary Brian Searles is retiring and Minter will take his place.

This is notable enough. But what I hadn’t realized until I read media accounts of her promotion is that she is building a very strong political resumé, putting her in a good position for a future run at statewide or Congressional office. Let’s look at some highlights, and my apologies if I missed anything:

— Four-term state representative who served on the Appropriations Committee as well as the Transportation Committee. Generally considered a key member of the Democratic caucus. That’s eight years of legislative experience.

— Named Deputy Transportation Secretary at the onset of the Shumlin Administration, so there’s four years of administrative experience in a big, sprawling, crucial agency. Plus, since a lot of transportation funds come from the feds, four years of experience dealing with our Congressional delegation and the D.C. crowd.

— Named Irene Recovery Officer in December 2011, replacing Neale Lunderville. Had to deal with the tough slog of rebuilding infrastructure — which also involved a lot of work (and facetime) in Washington, D.C.

— Member of the White House Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. More credibility and connections in Washington.

— Now being elevated to full Cabinet status, and a high-profile Cabinet post at that. Speaking purely politically, lots of opportunities for ribbon-cutting and other feel-good news, making connections with local officeholders, and looking tough and managerial when something bad happens. (AOT is much better for this kind of stuff than, say, Human Services.) Nothing like wearing a hard hat and reflective vest to counteract stereotypes about women in politics.

Transportation’s mission also enjoys broad tripartisan support: nobody’s against roads and bridges.

— Married to David Goodman, writer, broadcaster, and brother of progressive radio icon Amy Goodman. I’m not falling back on the tired trope of defining a powerful woman by her marriage; in this case there’s some relevance.

(Also, her teenage son Jasper is a sportswriter for the Times Argus and sportscaster for WDEV Radio. Good grief.)

That’s an extremely impressive list in a period of about ten years. It’s a crying shame there aren’t more Vermont women moving upward in liberal politics, but if we only get one, Sue Minter’s a damn good one.