WEYBRIDGE — Weybridge Democrat Spencer Putnam confirmed on Tuesday he will make his second bid for the Vermont House in a campaign that will emphasize “sustainability” — a word he will use often in conjunction with the economy, agriculture, health care and energy.
Putnam, 64, a veteran member and officer of the Addison County Democratic Committee and longtime businessman, is hoping to replace current Rep. Christopher Bray, D-New Haven, in the Addison-5 House district that includes Weybridge, New Haven and Bridport.
Bray is running for lieutenant governor. Putnam so far is the only candidate to have announced for the Addison-4 seat.
Putnam said he has wanted to serve in the Legislature for some time; he first ran for the House in 2000, losing out to then-incumbent Rep. Harvey Smith, a New Haven Republican. When Bray went on to win that seat in 2006, Putnam saw no need to challenge his fellow Democrat. Nor has Putnam had a desire to run for the state Senate, as Democrats have held Addison County and Brandon’s two seats for several years now.
But Bray’s decision to seek higher office presented an opening that Putnam, Weybridge’s current town moderator, did not want to let close.
“I’ve got the time to do it, and it goes without saying that there are critical issues facing the state of Vermont that I feel qualified to help address,” said Putnam, who is semi-retired after a long career in the business and education fields. His past jobs have included general manager of Middlebury-based Danforth Pewterers, and vice president of operations for the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. He currently works part-time as business consultant and adjunct professor for the online, MBA and sustainable business education programs at Green Mountain College.
Putnam said the same principles of sustainability that he deals with in his role as an educator are applicable to many of Vermont’s problems — starting with the state economy.
“There is no question that Vermont is going to face continued challenges, in terms of meeting its obligations as state government,” Putnam said. “I would say the number-one thing is working on a longer-term vision of how Vermont will continue to carry on its obligations in a fiscally responsible manner, but also not letting down the people who depend on state government for various reasons.”
This will mean sorting out what services and programs are vital and matching them up with the ever tightening resources in the state budget, according to Putnam.
He added Vermont will also have to work hard to keep farming sustainable, not only as a key component of the state economy but as an asset that keeps the state’s land open and attractive to tourism — another income generator. Putnam favors helping farmers improve their business models while encouraging diversification, such as growing biomass fuels or producing more value-added products. He added he would promote increased consumption of locally grown products as a way of further boosting agriculture and ensuring local food security.
Putnam believes Vermont could make strides in achieving affordable health care for all its citizens if it establishes a self-insurance program featuring contributions from individuals, state and federal government and businesses. He said he realizes that such a system would require Vermont to obtain waivers from the federal government so that it can access federal health care resources for its program.
“It would be very difficult for Vermont to go ahead on this independently,” Putnam acknowledged, adding that he would like to see cost controls on any universal health care program the state might embrace.
Sustainable energy policy is another topic Putnam plans on addressing during his campaign. He said the state government’s failure to develop a long-range energy plan is now coming back to haunt Vermont, as it looks at the potential closure of Vermont Yankee. Putnam counts himself among those who would like to see the Vernon-based nuclear reactor close.
“I think they should shut it down today, actually,” Putnam said.
Vermont should now work aggressively to expand its renewable energy portfolio, he said. In the meantime, Putnam believes Vermont can purchase power on the spot market “for a transitional period.”
“There is plenty of available power in New England right now,” said Putnam, who with wife, Fran, have a solar-powered home.
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.