August 26th, 2019

Senate Report: The Snelling Era

By Senator Bill Doyle

The Republicans recaptured the governorship in 1976 through Richard Snelling. Snelling had campaigned on a platform of providing more jobs to Vermonters and running government more efficiently, which apparently appealed to Vermonters as they returned him to governorship in 1978, 1980 and 1982. He gained national attention through his advocacy of changes in federal-state relations and as a chairman of the National Governors Association. Richard Snelling became the second governor in 20 years to be elected to a third term.

Snelling’s re-election to his fourth term earned him a place in political record books as one of the longest-serving chief executives in Vermont history. Only three governors have served more than six year: Thomas Chitteden (1778-1789 and 1790-1797), Isaac Tichenor (1797-1807 and 1808-1809), and Jonas Galusha (1809-1813 and 1815-1820).

During his long tenure, Snelling strongly supported equality of opportunity for women, and he took the lead in amending Vermont’s Constitution to include the Equal Rights Amendment. Acquisition of low cost Canadian power was another major accomplishment of the Snelling years. At the national level, he was the leading proponent of federalism. The high quality of his appointments, aggressive leadership and a progressive vision of the future were other characteristics of his administrations.

In his last formal message to the Vermont General Assembly, Snelling said:

“I believe leadership requires us all to act upon the truth when we believe we know it, and to do that which we believe the people of the State of Vermont would have us do in the light of what we have learned…Vermonters love the past, but they love the future far more. We have never sacrificed the future. We shall not do it. We do not sacrifice it for the com-fort of the moment; we cannot do it. Vermont is moving. Our people rightfully have a sense that we here have the best combination of any people of this country of a wholesome place in which to live and a decent access to the financial circumstances, which permit us to enjoy our natural surroundings.”

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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