June 26th, 2019

Governor Deane C. Davis


by Sen. Bill Doyle


The Democrat who tried to follow in Hoff’s gubernatorial shoes failed. John Daley of Rutland was beaten in 1968 by Deane C. Davis, former president of National Life Insurance Company of Montpelier and long-time Republican. Davis, who possessed wit and charm, combined a person-to-person campaign with imaginative television ads and promised to place Vermont on a sound fiscal basis. Once in office he realized that to accomplish that the state needed more revenue, so he fought for and won the state’s first general sales tax. Davis supported the three percent sales tax in order to pay the mountain costs of welfare.


Davis is best-remembered, however, for his reorganization of state government by combining agencies, boards and commissions (which he termed “islands of unaccountability”) into a cabinet system; and for his strong environmental stands, including support for Act 250. It was obvious to him that Vermont was in for trouble “unless we did something about the invasion of the state by people and the type of quick development that was going on to make a fast buck. As I studied the development in Windham County, I realized that the so-called second homes before too long turned out to be first homes and when they are first homes, there are children in the home, schools have to be taken care of, roads have got to be built to them, and they were building $200,000 houses on dirt roads up on the mountain where the soil was fragile.” Act 250 was one of the most progressive pieces of legislation to emerge from the Vermont General Assembly, and to this day it is known as a model of sound environmental and social planning.


Senator Bill Doyle serves on the Senate Education Committee and Senate Economic Affairs Committee, and is the Senate Assistant Minority Leader. He teaches government history at Johnson State College. He can be reached at 186 Murray Road, Montpelier, VT 05602; e-mail wdoyle@leg.state.vt.us; or call 223-2851.

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