Shumlin appoints Republican to head Irene recovery efforts

by Rob Roper

Governor Peter Shumlin’s decision to appoint Jim Douglas’ Secretary of Administration (and former campaign manager) Neale Lunderville to head the post Tropical Storm Irene recovery efforts had many on both sides of the aisle scratching their heads.

Perhaps the governor’s most bizarre statement came at the press conference announcing the Lunderville appointment. Shumlin claimed, “My challenge is my team has its hands full. We can’t ask people who work so hard for me to do everything.”

What Shumlin’s basically saying here is that he and the people he brought in to run our government can’t be bothered by the worst natural disaster to hit Vermont since the 1927 flood. They’ve got more important things to do, (Like Deputy Secretary of Health & Human Services, Patrick Flood, who, while Irene was pounding Vermont, decided he could be of more use getting arrested in Washington D.C. protesting a proposed pipeline.) so, they’re going to outsource this little mess.

Lots of people, when the flood hit, dropped whatever it was that was in their hands to help out neighbors, rebuild roads, distribute food… one would think that that would also be the number one priority of the chief executive of the state. Apparently not so. Shumlin has a political agenda, and he’s sticking to it no matter what else happens.

Nevertheless, Lunderville is highly and uniquely qualified to do the job. He has served as Secretary of Administration, Secretary of Transportation, and currently works for Green Mountain Power (a job from which he will take a four month leave of absence). He is a proven problem solver with a reputation for getting things done.

This has the political left in Vermont is divided on the Lunderville appointment, choosing to cast Shumlin as either a genius or a fool.

Those who see political brilliance in Shumlin’s choice cite the theory that by appointing a Republican to head relief efforts, he eliminates any potential rival from criticizing him in a campaign for how the recovery’s going. If it goes well, Shumlin’s bipartisanship saved the day. If it goes poorly, Lunderville takes the bullets.

Others see that as too cute by half and fear what Shumlin is really doing is teeing up a run for statewide office by Lunderville. After all, Neale Lunderville is about to spend the next four months touring the state of Vermont, finding money for local communities, solving enormous problems that affect people (voters) in a very dramatic way. And he will be very visible in doing so.

The thought of Lunderville running for Secretary of State, Treasurer, or (let’s really drive ’em nuts!) Congress, has the bloggers at the uber-left Green Mountain Daily apoplectic. One wrote, “you want to tell me [Shumlin] couldnt find someone from his own party to throw the bone to??? pull a name out of you’re a**….. some up and coming legislator needing some exposure???” (The whole thread is quite entertaining.)

But, perhaps all of the political conspiracy theorists are wrong on this one. And, perhaps, as the state scrambles to right itself after a tremendous blow, we should not be worried about “throwing bones” to political hacks looking for camera time. Perhaps, we should be happy we’ve got a good person working for us. Let’s hope he does a good job. Good luck, Neale. And, thanks.