(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll make economic development a top priority throughout state government. That was the message Thursday as the governor picked former Rutland Mayor Jeffrey Wennberg to run the state’s department of environmental conservation.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Throughout his campaign, Douglas said Vermont’s environmental permit process was a barrier to job creation. A week into his new administration, Douglas has made key appointments that he says follow through on his campaign message.
On Thursday, he named former Rutland Mayor Jeffrey Wennberg to head the department of environmental conservation.
The department is responsible for cracking down on polluters, and it runs a variety of permit programs. Douglas says there’s a single theme that unites all his appointments, including his pick for the environmental department:
(Douglas) “It’s very clear to me that, since creating jobs in our state is my top priority, that we need to have economic development expertise in all agencies of government, not just the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. I want to make sure all agencies and appointees are pulling in the same direction, helping me create more jobs for Vermonters to get us back on the path to prosperity.”
(Dillon) Wennberg is a Republican who now heads the Rutland County Solid Waste District. As Rutland mayor for 12 years, Wennberg streamlined the city’s permit process and pushed for Vermont’s first mandatory recycling law. He also led the effort to redevelop downtown.
Wennberg says as mayor and as manager of the solid waste district, he’s had to deal with the state on permit issues. He says he’ll bring the customer’s perspective to his new state job. But he says it’s too early to say how he’ll change programs and agency priorities:
(Wennberg) “All I can say is, I’m going to go in with an open mind. I’m going to listen to everybody who has an opinion on the thing and not take anything off the table until it’s had an opportunity to be aired, vented and considered. So I wouldn’t rule anything out.”
(Dillon) Environmentalists greeted Wennberg’s appointment with skepticism. Mark Sinclair of the Conservation Law Foundation says that as mayor, Wennberg was a strong critic of the state’s environmental programs:
(Sinclair) “He has recommended that we remove public participation from Act 250, and he has called the environmental agency he will now be leading a regulatory juggernaut. So I don’t believe he will be taking the mission of the environmental agency seriously, which is to protect the natural resources of Vermont.”
(Dillon) Governor Douglas also named Rutland business development specialist David O’Brien to head the state agency that represents consumers in utility rate cases.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.
Review the complete list of Governor Douglas’s appointments online.