STARKSBORO — A political consultant would advise most new candidates to start off aspiring to a lower rung on the electoral ladder than lieutenant governor.
But when the candidate’s last name is Snelling, one can throw conventional political wisdom out the window. The son of the late Vermont Gov. Richard Snelling and former Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling, Republican Mark Snelling confirmed on Tuesday his plans to seek the state’s second-highest executive post in the November 2010 elections.
“Obviously, I’m doing this because I think I can make a difference,” Snelling, 59, said in a telephone interview. “(Lieutenant governor) is a position in which a person is able to bridge differences between Republics and Democrats, to forge some solutions to some very difficult problems we are facing.”
Mark Snelling and his wife, Linda, have for the past 31 years lived in Starksboro, where they have raised three children.
Snelling is president of The Shelburne Corporation, a manufacturer of brass wire products. He has owned and operated a number of businesses in the ski, bike, and hardware industries. He is also president of The Snelling Center for Government board and is chair of the Vermont Governor’s Council of Environmental Advisors. He has previously served on the boards of Key Bank Vermont, the Vermont Land Trust, and the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont and as chair of Housing Vermont and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.
Snelling’s sister, Diane Snelling, currently represents Chittenden County in the Vermont Senate. Now Mark Snelling wants to join his family’s tradition of public service in the Statehouse. He said he decided to run for lieutenant governor when the incumbent, Brian Dubie, recently announced he would leave the position after this term, potentially to run for governor. Addison Independent sources said that Dubie would announce on Thursday morning his intention to seek the governorship.
It’s clear that whomever serves in the state’s top leadership posts will have to contend with some deepening problems, according to Snelling, not the least of which is Vermont’s budget. The Douglas administration has served notice that it may soon have to lay off as many as 200 more state employees to shore up new red ink in the state budget. It’s a problem that is likely to get worse before it gets better, according to Vermonter legislators, due to a weak economy and fewer revenues to pad state coffers.
“Right in our face are the effects of a recession,” Snelling said. “People are having a tough time getting by. Everybody has less.”
With an aging and dwindling population, Snelling said Vermont cannot count on major new tax revenue sources in the near future. That said, Vermont must find ways to trim its budget so that it is not perennially in rescission mode in the future. That, he said, may mean paring back on some human services and education programs that the state may no longer be in a position to afford.
“Vermont’s budget is not going to automatically balance itself,” Snelling said. “Broadly speaking, I don’t think we have any choice but to make cuts.”
He suggested the state take a similar tack to that employed by his late father during his first stint as governor during the 1970s. Richard Snelling in 1977 established the “Cost Control Council” that he said examined government programs and spending from top to bottom, to find and correct inefficiencies.
“I do think we need a comprehensive effort to look at the whole package,” Snelling said.
The over-arching goal of any budget planning, he said, should be in maintaining “Vermont as an excellent place to live… Only by having a solid economy are we going to be able to do that.”
Snelling has been keeping track of the health care debate in Washington. He said he is pleased with the efforts Vermont has taken unilaterally on health care, but believes the state should do a better job getting maximum return for its health care dollars. Snelling also believes that Vermont has made faster inroads on health care reform than the federal government, and hopes that the state’s plans are able to dovetail with any reform bill passed in the nation’s capital.
Long-term energy policy is another issue with which the state will have to contend in the near future, according to Snelling. He believes Vermont must stress conservation and develop renewable energy resources, while at the same time considering contract extensions with its two largest electricity providers: HydroQuebec and Vermont Yankee. He said extension of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power contract should only be done if federal authorities determine the Vernon reactor can be operated safely.
Snelling plans to make rounds throughout the state during the coming months to share his views with Vermonters. He realizes that while most people in the state recognize his name, they need to know him as an individual. But truth be told, he’ll be pleased if people associate him with his mom, sister, and of course, his father.
“Genetically, we’re pretty strongly linked,” he joked. “And the people of Vermont generally think Dick Snelling did a great job.”