Transportation Secretary appointee draws criticism

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(Host) There’s another shake-up in the Douglas Administration. Transportation Secretary Dawn Terrill is leaving next month.

But Democrats pounced on the governor for naming a longtime political aide as her replacement.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Neale Lunderville is perhaps best known in Montpelier as the young political strategist who managed the governor’s campaigns in 2002 and 2004.

In May, he left his job as secretary of civil and military affairs – that’s a position usually reserved for a governor’s top political advisor – to lobby for the pharmaceutical industry in Boston.

Now, he’s talking over the Transportation Agency, of the largest divisions of state government.

Democrats criticized the appointment. They say the agency deserves an experienced leader who can handle the problems facing Vermont’s roads and bridges.

Scudder Parker is the Democratic candidate for governor.

(Parker) “In my judgment, this is a remarkable instance of someone who may be a competent political operative but who has no experience as an administrator or someone with the ability to lead a complex, integrated task that deals with both policy, huge amounts of money, and a cooperative approach that will get the job done.”

(Dillon) Douglas says 3-year-old Lunderville does have some experience in transportation issues, since he worked as the governor’s liaison with the agency.

(Douglas) “Serving as secretary of a large agency is a people-skills business and that s what he’s very good at. Neale is a native Vermonter. He cares deeply about this state, and wants to continue to serve it. I’m really pleased that he’s agreed to come back.”

(Dillon) The turnover at the agency is the third time that there’s been a new secretary since Douglas took office in early 2003.

Parker and other Democrats say the appointment is part of a pattern of Douglas naming inexperienced advisors to run critical parts of state government. Parker says the new agency faces big challenges – roads that need repair and declining revenues to fix them.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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