(Host) Jim Jeffords is attending lots of award presentations and parties as he winds down his long senate career. One of those parties was held Friday night at Rutland’s Paramount Theater and hundreds were on hand to thank Jeffords for his ongoing support of the arts. As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the evening was a combination retirement party, birthday celebration and political roast.
(Keck) The roasting was done by The Capitol Steps, a Washington-based comedy troupe that parodies all things political. In honor of Jim Jeffords – they revised a song they performed five years ago when Jeffords took the national spotlight by leaving the Republican Party.
(Capitol Steps) “Well the GOP was splintered . . . and you don’t mess around with Jim. . . “
(Keck) The two leading candidates to fill Jeffords’ shoes – Republican businessman Rich Tarrant and Independent Congressman Bernie Sanders – were on hand for the festivities. During intermission, Rutland businessman John Herlihy talked of Jeffords many contributions. Ten years ago, he says members of the community hired consultants to determine what it would take to renovate and reopen Rutland’s historic Paramount Theater. The consultants he says weren’t optimistic.
(Herlihy) “What the experts didn’t realize is that Rutland had a secret ally strategically positioned in Washington.”
(Keck) Herlihy says Jeffords secured nearly $1.4 million in federal funding which helped jump start the project.
(Herlihy) “As Dizzy Dean once said – It aint braggin’ if you really dune it. And this time Senator Jim Jeffords you really did it for downtown Rutland.”
(Keck) Throughout his career, Jeffords has secured federal funding for a number of historic theaters in the state. Liz Jeffords says her husband’s love of the arts runs deep.
(Liz Jeffords) “Well his mom was a music teacher here in Rutland in the 1920s and she literally went from schools to schools here in the Rutland area teaching music and art and so he wais raised with a sense of you have to feed your soul to enjoy life.”
(Keck) Senator Jeffords seemed sincerely touched by all the attention. Many in the audience were old friends he said, some even high school classmates.
(Jeffords) “Oh, it’s wonderful. It just brings you alive. It brings back memories. You just realize how many friends you have. I just never felt better than I do this moment.”
(Keck) “Are you going to miss Washington?”
(Jeffords) “Nope – I’m glad to come home. I will be trying to help Vermont out. The capitol will get along. But the real work goes on back in your home states.”
(The singing of “Happy Birthday”)
(Keck) Jim Jeffords, who turned 72 last Thursday, is retiring from the senate after three decades in Congress.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.