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January 18, 2013

French Picked for Vacant Rutland Senate Seat


Updated with comment from Gov. Peter Shumlin

Former representative Eldred French of Shrewsbury has been selected to replace Bill Carris in the Vermont Senate, Seven Days has learned.

First elected to the House in 2008, French lost a close reelection race last year to fellow incumbent Rep. Dennis Devereux (R-Mount Holly) after decennial redistricting merged portions of their two House districts into one.

"One window closes and another door opens," French, a Democrat, said Friday morning. "I did not want to go out the way I did, so this opportunity is great for me."

A month after winning reelection to a two-year term representing Rutland County, former Democratic majority leader Bill Carris announced his resignation from the Senate in December, citing health reasons. Two weeks ago, Rutland County Democrats selected a list of three potential replacements — French, former senator Cheryl Hooker and former senate candidate Bob Baird — from which Gov. Peter Shumlin could choose.

Shumlin informed French of his decision Thursday and plans to make a formal announcement later Friday. A Shumlin spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

French will serve on the Senate Agriculture and Government Operations committees.

A resident of Rutland County since 1973 and the owner of a tree service company that operates mostly within the county, French said the district is "a good fit" for him. Though the county is more Republican-leaning than most districts in Vermont — its other two senators hail from the GOP — French said he thinks he'll have a good shot at defending the seat in two years.

"I'm very confident in my ability to be reelected," he said. "I don't pretend it's an easy county and [that] it's not going to take a lot of hard work. But once the people of the county get to know me, I think they'll be happy to reelect me."

French said he's not sure when he'll be sworn in, but hopes to get to work early next week.

"I'm just welcoming the opportunity to grow and learn and be able to be effective for the county on a variety of issues," he said.


Shumlin released a statement on his appointment of French later Friday morning:

“Eldred was hardworking, energetic and well respected in the House. He was willing to reach out and work collaboratively with people across Rutland County. Bill Carris has been a tremendous Senator, and I am confident that Eldred is the right person to fill Bill’s Senate seat.”

Photo courtesy of Eldred French.

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