As Peter Shumlin is sworn in, it is the valedictory moment for the former governor, including a nice package in our paper today put together by my colleague at the Times Argus, Steven Pappas.
Our paper, following Associated Press style, called him James Douglas, which always seemed a little stilted. Particularly, perhaps, because the ability to deal with Vermonters on a casual, first-name basis is part of Douglas' charm. He clearly enjoyed that part of his job. For the record, he is the best reader of kids' books at Friday Night Live. Don't take my word for it; I'm quoting a 6-year-old expert.
That low-key, "aw shucks" demeanor could be a valuable tool for dodging hard questions at times, particularly on policy his administration was pushing, but he was refreshingly open and honest as a habit, so it was hard not to grant him an occasional "Gee, I don't know, I'm no expert on that." What it didn't do was hide the sharp political mind behind the persona. If anybody understood the full, political and social implications of a policy decision, it was Jim Douglas.
HIstory will be a better judge of the large arc of the Douglas Administration, but both friends and foes recognized his even demeanor, respect for those with different views and basic
decency. The starting point for any honest analysis has to be that he did his very best to make the state better.
I enjoyed the opportunity to work with Mr. Douglas, regardless of whether we were in agreement or opposition on any given subject. Watching him navigate issues, particularly no-win ones like ridgetop windmills, was a master class in small-state politics.
I wish him well at Middlebury and into the future.