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Douglas: Remembering Mallary

09/29/11 5:55PM By Jim Douglas
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(HOST) Dick Mallary will be remembered for his many civic, business and political accomplishments. But commentator and former Vermont governor Jim Douglas is remembering him for the understated - but effective - way he got things done.

(DOUGLAS) When Dick Mallary died this week Vermont lost a real giant. He was far from a typical politician: he was soft-spoken, even shy; he didn't electrify a room when he entered. In fact he confided to family and close friends that he didn't really enjoy campaigning, and sometimes it showed. But everyone who knew him respected his quiet competence and inevitably regarded him among the smartest people who ever served our state.

He began his public career as chairman of the Selectmen in his home town of Fairlee. He served a dozen years in the Vermont House, including three as Speaker; he also spent a term in the Senate. He assumed the Speakership right after the House completed the agonizing process of downsizing itself from 246 members to 150. It was the result of court-ordered reapportionment, requiring representation on the basis of population. There were literally tears in the chamber the preceding year as many members realized that their legislative days were over. Dick was Secretary of Administration for Governors Davis and Snelling, and I was honored to have him on my team as Commissioner of Taxes; he helped us change Act 60 by removing the controversial shark pool. I knew him far earlier, though, as I had the privilege of interning in his Congressional office and working on his campaign.

Dick's experience outside of government was equally impressive. His family owned a large farm in the Connecticut River valley, he had worked in banking and as head of an electric distribution company. He gave his time to many nonprofit organizations, including his local hospital and the Vermont State Colleges.

I'll remember him most as someone whose integrity was above reproach. My internship coincided with the 1974 Watergate hearings that revealed a pattern of misconduct by President Nixon and his aides. Although Dick wasn't on the Judiciary Committee, he followed its deliberations and the picture wasn't pretty. He indicated that, absent some exculpatory evidence, he would likely favor impeachment. It never came to that, as the President resigned prior to a House vote. Ironically, although Dick was prepared to abandon the chief executive of his party, the stain of the scandal hurt all Republicans that fall, including Dick, who lost a close race for the U.S. Senate.

Many have recalled his support for the civil union law in 2000 that probably cost him re-election to the legislature. That didn't matter to Dick, just as he did what he believed was right in Washington decades before. I'll always remember his campaign slogan from those days: ‘He says what he thinks. He does what he says.' No one can ask for more. Too often in Congress today we see politicians on both sides of the aisle who make decisions based on enhancing their own prospects for re-election. Not Dick. Holding office wasn't what was most important to him. He cared above all else for the people he served and the state he loved. America could use more leaders like Dick Mallary.


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