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September 08, 2011

Gov. Shumlin Names Former Top Republican Aide to Head Irene Recovery

IMG_2929 Gov. Peter Shumlin today appointed Neale Lunderville, an executive at Green Mountain Power and former top aide to Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, to coordinate the state's recovery efforts in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Lunderville is taking a four-month leave of absence from his post at GMP, the state's second largest utility, to help coordinate disaster relief and recovery efforts between federal, state and local governments as well as private and non-profit sectors.

Shumlin said Lunderville will be paid a salary comparable to that of other secretaries and commissioners in his administration, likely in the low six figures, though a final dollar amount has not yet been agreed upon. The governor added that the state expects the federal government will end up picking up the tab for Lunderville's salary.

In the Douglas administration Lunderville led — at separate times — the Agency of Transportation and the Agency of Administration. Lunderville ran Douglas' campaign in 2002 and helped get him elected to office. He remained involved in Douglas' campaigns, and in GOP politics, since then.

Lunderville is a also close ally of Harlan Sylvester, a powerful political powerbroker in Vermont who is chair of Shumlin's Council of Economic Advisors — a post he has held with every governor since Madeleine Kunin. Sylvester backed former Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie in the 2010 gubernatorial election and supported Douglas, despite being a lifelong Democrat.

Political connections aside, Lunderville's current boss — GMP — has plenty of big-money business before the state, too. GMP recently won final approval to build 21 wind turbines on a ridgeline in Lowell and is seeking regulatory approval to merge with Central Vermont Public Service, the state's largest utility.

Lunderville told reporters he would avoid any duties that posed a conflict of interest between his role as recovery coordinator and his "day job" with GMP.

Shumlin dismissed reporters' questions about whether politics or his administration's cozy relationship with GMP played into his decision to hire Lunderville.

"This is not about politics," said Shumlin. "Irene and the damage it inflicted knows no party and no partisanship and we're facing a monumental task to rebuild."

Shumlin said that Lunderville's expertise would be an asset to the state for this short-term appointment, which expires in December. Shumlin's chief of staff, Bill Lofy, was the first to reach out to Lunderville to gauge his interest in the job, Shumlin said.

"The challenge from the governor's perspective is this: My team has its hands full trying to wire the state by 2013, reform health care, making us an education state and managing a tough budget," said Shumlin. "We can't ask the people who are working so hard for me to do everything I just mentioned and oversee this massive recovery effort. I'm looking to Neale to harvest the opportunities given us by Irene to build a better infrastructure as we move forward."

Lunderville joined Shumlin at the press conference in Montpelier, while Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding and Transportation Secretary Brian Searles looked on.

"I am honored to come in and do my small part to get Vermont working again and build this state up better than before and make this state stronger than ever," said Lunderville, noting that his immediate focus is to help get the main roadways re-opened and make sure people displaced by the flooding have adequate housing.

"We have extensive damage across the state and we have a tremendous challenge ahead," said Lunderville.

According to the governor's office, the recovery's short-term goals are restoring basic services, housing the displaced and rebuilding vital transportation corridors. The mid-term goal is to stabilize communities and infrastructure and develop plans for the rebuilding. This work is currently underway. The state’s ongoing efforts to aid communities are focused on four key areas, the governor said:

  • Family & Business Assistance: Helping Vermonters recover from personal, property and community loss. Coordinating with FEMA, VEMA and state agencies to take care of immediate needs like food, housing, employment, transportation and education. Developing a strategy for restoring long-term health of families and communities.
  • Infrastructure Reconstruction: Rebuilding roads, bridges and culverts, including a thorough assessment of current damage, plus development of a priority list and realistic timeline for the work.
  • Harnessing Vermont’s Strength: Coordination of community relief efforts already underway to maximize resources, volunteers, donations and manpower. 
  • Building for the Future: Where possible, use the opportunity of rebuilding to reposition and strengthen Vermont communities to compete in the decades to come.  For instance, where possible, use this opportunity to lay fiber.

"I am bound and determined to make sure that when we are fully recovered that Vermont is in better shape than the way Irene found it and found us and we will succeed at that," said Shumlin.

Shay, way to play politics on this one. Shumlin is trying to get VT back on it's feet. Leave it to you to try to make up a story out of thin air.

The Governor just keeps handing out those high dollar payouts to cronies while the rest of Vermont suffers.


Neale Lunderville is certainly no crony of Peter Shumlin. In fact, even though Neale did have many good relationships across the aisle when he worked in the Douglas administration, he did not have much rapport with then Senate President pro tem Shumlin.

It's absurd to suggest that Shumlin is doing Lunderville a financial favor. Whatever the state or the feds (us) end up paying Neale, it will certainly be less than he is forgoing at GMP during his leave of absence. He will also be more than worth it.

Shumlin simply picked the best person in the state to do a job that needs to be done. More at

While: " I'm looking to Neale to harvest the opportunities given us by Irene to build a better infrastructure as we move forward." strikes me as an odd turn of phrase. I think that the Governor is right to integrate this long term recovery into a more formalized political process. The legislature has yet to be heard from but hopefully we'll see some policies on where we should-and should not, rebuild.

Maybe he can bribe Mother Nature :)

I know that there were many other qualified candidates in Vermont to head the Irene efforts and this is another appointment that is a disappointment. Lunderville is no "wonder boy" as once dubbed by the press and the state of Vermont deserves a stronger choice than that. Not only has Vermont been forgotten about by the National Press, but it's own Governor has taken the low road to have chosen such a weak individual to steer Vermont back from such devastation. He is as inspiring and as inefficient as a Vermont Highway Construction project, oh hey wait.........that's right-He was the Secretary of Transportation for the state under Gov. Douglas..................I thought we were supposed to learn from our mistakes Gov. Shumlin.......................

@ appointment disappointment:

Ah, yes. A Democrat must never, ever, ever name a Republican to any job, and vice versa. It's the very myopic attitude you are displaying that is the source of the pathetic, dusgraceful gridlock in Washington, DC right now. Whatever Obama wants, the Republicans oppose -- for absolutely no other reason than that the Democratic president wants it.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Wow........from my comment above not one thing was mentioned about The fact that Mr. Blunderville is a Republican. There were many other qualified people Gov. Shumlin could have Chosen for the position regardless of race, gender religion or Political party affiliation. The issue is with the self -proclaimed "wonder boy."

Honest question: Who is more qualified than Lunderville? Who would do a better job?

I hate his politics. And I find it so ironic that a man who has built his carear dismantling government is now in charge of a massive, government led, recovery effort. HOWEVER, he is qualified to do the job. He knows state government. He knows how the players. He has the backing of the top Democrat and the confidence of every Republican in Vermont. He is smart and incredibly motivated. I don't like the guy. But I know that he'll be effective in this role.

Smart pick by Shumlin.

The choice ia not good. He has a conflict of interest with GMP and is a cut throat politician who only is trying to further his farce of a career. He cares about no one but himself.

"The choice ia not good. He has a conflict of interest with GMP and is a cut throat politician who only is trying to further his farce of a career. He cares about no one but himself."

Um . . . you're talking about Peter Shumlin, right? Everything you say about Lunderville is equally true or moreso of Shumlin.

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