T.J. Donovan discusses his last day as VT Attorney General and new job in the private sector
Democrat T.J. Donovan has served as Vermont’s Attorney General since 2017. But Monday was his last day in state government. On May 5th, Donovan said he would not run for re-election and then announced a month later that he would leave early to take a job in the private sector. Donovan talked with WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley on Monday about his new job and said his last day as Attorney General was fairly routine.
Donovan: Surprisingly the last day has been like every other day with a lot to do and a lot of decisions to make and just going through the cases and matters that we need to and just going to work right up to the end.
Bradley: T.J., I think a lot of people were surprised when you first announced that you wouldn't run for reelection. And now you've announced that you're leaving the office early, that you're not going to fill your term. Was this something that came as a surprise to you that you ended up finding a job in the private sector so quickly or did you have thoughts that you would be leaving early?
Well, I knew I had to look for a job. You know that's just the bottom line. I needed to look for a job. And I didn't really know the process of really navigating the marketplace, if you will, in the private sector. So this is all new for me. I've done this for the last 16 years. And so I really didn't know the process. But I knew that I was open minded, that if something were to come up that I was interested in and thought it would be good to pursue, that I was going to keep an open mind. And that's what I did. And this offer came up and very excited about it and looking forward to the next chapter.
I understand that you're going to be going to work for a company called Roblox, if I'm pronouncing that properly?
That's correct. And I'll be the Director of Public Policy and U.S. State Strategy for Roblox, which is a platform for immersive experiences. Many people think of it as kind of a gaming platform, but there's different things in terms of writing code, developing. So it's really interesting. And my role will be talking about looking at policies and laws regarding child protection and consumer protection and privacy and all issues that I've worked on throughout my career. I'll be in a very different setting and in the private sector, but issues that I care deeply about and issues that I'm excited to work for and I'm very excited for the opportunity. It's an exciting opportunity and I look forward to getting started,
What intrigues you about this platform with Roblox and how you'll be able to integrate what you've been doing as AG and as an attorney and going into what is a multimedia platform?
Well, Pat, as you know, we've always have talked about the role of technology and whether or not frankly technology has outpaced the law in in the context of law enforcement. And there's a lot of debates right now about technology and the law in our country and really around the world. And so it really is an interesting place to be involved in. But for me, in particular what really resonated to me about Roblox was its values. It talks about safety and civility and a place where people can be creative and be who they want to be. And that sounded a lot like Vermont to me about respecting each other and trying to as we talk about online issues and how do we create a safe place for kids? How do we create a respectful place? How do you balance that with the First Amendment? How do you build those consumer protections? How do you build the privacy protections? And how do you protect kids? And those are all questions that we've dealt with one way or another over the course of my career. And they'll certainly be very different contexts but nonetheless still dealing with those issues. And I've always had an interest in those issues. And so that issue of policy and law and technology has always been an interest of mine. And Roblox's values really resonated with me. And you know, I have a couple kids and we're always talking about screen time. And not only my professional experience, but my personal experience as a dad is going to be helpful. So I don't, you know, this is new for me too. So I'm going to try to do the best I can to work hard and to continue to advocate about the things that I care about.
T.J., you've mentioned that obviously this is a new career path for you. And you've been in state government for nearly 20 years now. But have you ever worked in the private sector before?
Yeah, well, I did three years for a private law firm, which was a great experience. But this is definitely new for me Pat. And it's exciting. But it's new and so I'm eager to get started and motivated to work hard and to do well. But this is new. So it's going to be interesting.
It sounds like Roblox is kind of a startup. So are you going to be the only attorney on their staff or will you be overseeing other attorneys?
Well I am going to be the Director of Public Policy and U.S. State Strategy, and so, you know, working in my capacity as an attorney is not necessarily a legal job. So that will be different. And the company, I think, went public 18 months or so ago. And so it's really an exciting place and I look forward to it. I'm eager to get started and I look forward to this new chapter.
Do you plan to stay in Vermont politics in any form or fashion at all?
Well, I'm always going to be involved in our community. I think you can be involved and serve the community in so many different ways. And I love nothing more than coaching youth sports or volunteering at a local nonprofit or be involved in just making sure that Vermont remains a safe and vibrant place for everybody and just being an engaged citizen. And I'm really kind of looking forward to that. And as to politics you never say never. We'll see what the future holds. But this is a good break for me. This is something that, as we talked about, is going to be different and I'm very excited about it. And I'm very grateful for 19 years total years of public service and I'm grateful for that service. I'm grateful for the people that I've worked with, the opportunity to interact with so many different Vermonters to try to make our community a better place. And this is, this is, this is a change but it's a good change. And I'm looking forward to it.
Deputy Attorney General Joshua Diamond will serve as Vermont’s Acting Attorney General until Governor Phil Scott appoints a replacement or until voters make their decision in November.