Don Turner best choice for Lt. Gov. When Moody’s downgraded Vermont’s bond rating this week, it also set some parameters for what Vermonters should consider when they choose between the candidates in the general election Nov. 6.
The issue, as Moody’s stressed, is the state’s low rate of growth, the aging of its population, and how it handles its unfunded pension liabilities. It’s an issue of fiscal discipline and how we reorient our economy to produce the growth and the jobs that go along with it. It’s Vermont’s fundamental challenge.
In the Lt. Gov.’s race between progressive David Zuckerman and Republican Don Turner, it’s Mr. Turner who is best equipped to help meet the state’s challenges. Mr. Turner’s entire political life has been focused on precisely what Moody’s says ails us.
In contrast, Mr. Zuckerman’s political objectives, almost without exception, land on the far left of the political spectrum, and do little to address Vermont’s core challenges. His most widely known proposal to stimulate growth is that of legalizing the recreational sale of marijuana
Mr. Turner’s years as House Minority Leader also showed he was able to stretch across the political aisles to reach consensus when possible. That’s his nature. He’s never been a heavy handed leader; he has coaxed support from his caucus through reason and transparency. He puts decency and civility ahead of political expediency, a refreshing change from what transpires on the national stage within his own party.
Those apolitical qualities are also essential if Vermont is going to emerge from its demographic spiral as a place more hospitable to growth and economic prosperity. It can’t be done from the left or the right; it has to be done in the political middle with leadership that is credible to the greatest number of Vermonters.
In Mr. Turner’s case, it also helps that he is not an overly ambitious person politically. He doesn’t harbor an overwhelming personal drive to push himself to the front of the crowd. He doesn’t have unquenchable desire to blaze a path to Washington. What motivates him is to be part of the solution when it comes to solving problems; allowing others to take the credit, being content to simply understand that progress has been made.
He’s shown that sort of leadership and selflessness in all that he’s done in Milton. He’s worn every hat in Milton there is to wear, all the way down to taking responsibility for finding the town’s Christmas tree each year. It would be difficult to find anyone who has worked harder than Don Turner has to make his or her community a better place to live and work.
There is nothing political about what he’s accomplished in Milton. But as anyone who has experience at the community level understands, success in one’s community means being able to work with people of all political persuasions, and people with difference backgrounds and expectations. To succeed requires not only patience, but understanding, and an innate sense of collaboration. It means not allowing perfection to be the enemy of good.
It’s that level of experience Vermont needs most. We need political leaders who have done the hard lifting at the community level, and who can replicate that success from community to community throughout Vermont.
It’s the sort of leadership that requires the selflessness that Mr. Turner possesses. It requires finding leaders in each of our communities who are willing to step up and to begin solving problems at the local level. It’s about elevating them, it’s about developing the next generation of leaders. And that development happens best when the first steps are within one’s community.
No one knows a community’s steps better than Mr. Turner.
This is a different twist to a typical newspaper endorsement. Today’s needs - particularly for a Lt. Gov. Position - should be focused less on policy positions than one’s proven ability to lead and to engage Vermonters where they need to be engaged, which is within our communities. The more granular we become in this effort, the more successful we will be.
The Lt. Gov.’s responsibilities are limited to three things; acting as governor when the governor is absent, presiding over the Senate and casting a tie-breaking vote when necessary. That’s it.
Given the challenges Vermont faces, it’s clear that our leaders need to be focused on precisely the things that Moody’s has identified as our challenges, and addressing those challenges will require someone who enjoys the confidence of Vermonters on both sides of the political aisle. Mr. Turner is that person. Beyond that, what we need is a leader who will work with each of our communities to identify challenges and to summon forth the next generation of leaders to address them. That need is also best addressed by Mr. Turner, also known as Mr. Community.
by Emerson Lynn
Originally published in the Saint Albans Messenger