Democrat Charles Kimbell discusses his decision to run for Vermont Lieutenant Governor
A shuffling of Vermont’s top leadership seats will occur after the November general election. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy will retire at the end of his eighth term. At-large Congressman Peter Welch is seeking the U.S. Senate seat. Current Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray is running to replace Welch, and candidates are now announcing their plans to run for lieutenant governor. Democrat Charles Kimbell announced his campaign on January 3rd. Kimbell, who is in his third term representing Woodstock in the Vermont House, tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley moving to the Lieutenant Governor’s office would allow him to do similar things but on a larger scale — and to focus on important issues that sometimes fall through the cracks.
There are some things that don't fit neatly within a certain committee in the legislature. And they don't fit neatly within any agency of state government. So the example that I always like to cite is looking at workforce development, which is of course a really hot topic right now because of the workforce shortage we're experiencing, mostly in part to COVID-19 but not entirely. And then looking at long term career development. So if you look at those pieces part of it is in the Commerce Committee, part of it's in the Education Committee, part of it’s in the Agency of Education, some of it’s in the Department of Labor, some it's in Agency of Commerce and Community Development. And then there's the other players like the Vermont State College system, Community College of Vermont, career and technical education centers, K through 12. And so all these different players, and there hasn't been, in my opinion, a really strong organization of those different players to come up with a way to create this clear career path for people that live in Vermont and also to meet those employers’ needs. So I look at that as a big example of what I could do as lieutenant governor is to really bring those people together.
Representative Kimbell, you have said that you are a fiscally conservative, socially liberal, moderate Democrat.
So what exactly does that mean especially with some of the issues that you've just outlined?
That is a good question, and it often you know saying I'm fiscally conservative and socially liberal a lot of people I think agree with that automatically. But to me it means that I believe that government really does have a role in helping people to solve problems, but that the government must live within its means and that it should carry on its programs based on fair and reasonable taxes. That in a nutshell that's what I think that means. You know socially liberal look at some of the causes. Are you pro-choice and in favor of reproductive rights? I say yes I am. In terms of making sure that we end institutional racism and systemic racism? Yes, I am. And to acknowledge that we do have issues there and it does exist. And how do you combat that? And that's where looking at the different solutions, are they sustainable? Can you go ahead and put those in place? So it's really on that sense, looking at those social issues on a liberal basis, but looking at the fiscal issues on how do you really pay for them and in a fair and equitable way,
As lieutenant governor you would preside over the Senate but not necessarily introduce legislation and things. So how would you actually promote the issues that you feel are important?
That I think is the key to how to be successful in this role. It is not from the podium standing in the Senate chambers. It is working with Vermonters across the state and also working with members of the Senate and members of the House on the issues that are important to them and also working with members of the administration. Because the legislature can really come up with very good policy but if the administration doesn't also agree it may not turn out the way the legislature intended. And vice versa. Sometimes the legislature has the best of intentions but may not realize some of the implications and putting it into practice. I think we do a very good job of trying to anticipate that but we can't anticipate everything. So I think that is not from the position of the podium in the Senate where lieutenant governor can be most effective. It’s going to be off the podium and really working the room.
So which issues do you hope to, as you put it work the room, if you are elected?
I would say first of all it's really looking at that long term career development, not just short term workforce needs because those are somewhat because of the pandemic and when that subsides a lot of that will be eased. Not all of it because we faced some workforce shortages before the pandemic. But looking at those long term career development systems. There's one area that I want to really focus on. A second is talking about the vitality of rural Vermont areas and the industries that are important to them whether it's forestry or diversified agriculture, outdoor recreation and even manufacturing. Which is where most manufacturing is in the state of Vermont is in rural Vermont. So looking at those things, looking at the connectivity, continued connectivity and mobile phone access for rural Vermont, yes we have money in place. It ain't done yet. So It’s not like we can rest and say, boy I'm glad we did that. No there's still a lot of work to do in that area. And there are some proposals for increasing mobile phone access, which, if you've driven around the state of Vermont you know there are certain 10 mile stretches where you just turn your phone off because nobody's going to be able to hear you. So and some of that is the typography. Some of it is the towers and there has to be a lot of work done to address that. So there's some new proposals and I look forward to moving that. And then just the other part about putting families first and looking at that paid family leave, looking at the closely associated issues of quality, affordable housing that people can afford on what they earn living in the state. And there is a shortage of that housing. How do we increase it? Looking at doing that. And also just the interrelationship of childcare too. And do we have enough childcare centers? Is it too expensive for the average working Vermonter? There are so many issues but if I boiled it down to three I would say it's really those putting families first, looking at rural vitality and then also looking at long term career development.
Charlie Kimball, you're a Democrat. There's going to be a Democratic primary now. What do you make of the interest and the fact that you've got to run in a primary at this point?
I always thought I would be running in a primary. And when an opening like this happens there's definitely going to be people that have been thinking about it or just are then inspired to serve in that capacity so they want to go and serve in that role. So I welcome it. It's part of the process. Let's do it because there will be a diversity of goals, a diversity of experience. And I'm looking forward to that opportunity to have those conversations with the voters and let them decide as to who they want their next lieutenant governor to be. Then nice thing is, I've lived, I grew up in St. Albans. I've worked all over the state. Worked in Brattleboro. Lived in West Dummerston, Pomfret, Williston, Essex, Sharon, Woodstock, Brownsville, so all over the state and I feel like I know it well and I've got a pretty good network of folks that I've worked with and had friends with for a long time.
So far, Democrat Charles Kimbell faces Patricia Preston, the Executive Director of the Vermont Council on World Affairs who is mounting her first campaign for public office. The primary is August 9th. No Republicans or Progressives have yet announced a campaign.