Senate president pro-tem stepping down

MONTPELIER — No matter what happens during the November elections, there will be new leadership at the State House.

Senate President Pro-Tem John Campbell announced Monday he will join House Speaker Shap Smith and Gov. Peter Shumlin in not seeking re-election, choosing instead to head the state association that represents sheriffs and prosecutors.

Senate Pro Tem John Campbell

Josh O'Gorman / VPB

Senate Pro Tem John Campbell

Upon completion of the 2016 legislative session in early May, Campbell will take the position of executive director of the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, a job that reflects his work, past and present.

“It’s not often that jobs open up in a field in which you have passion for,” Campbell said. “Law enforcement and being a prosecutor are things that are very important to me.”

The eight-term Democrat is a deputy state’s attorney in Windsor County, which he has represented since 2001. During the 1980s, he was a member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.

Campbell will replace David Cahill, who is leaving the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs to become the Windsor County state’s attorney, an office in which he had previously served as deputy for a number of years.

Shumlin, who has previously served as leader of the Senate and who announced in June 2015 he would not seek a fourth term, said Campbell’s leadership will be missed.

“John’s absence from the Senate next year will be a big loss for the Legislature,” Shumlin said. “As pro-tem and governor, I have been able count on John’s loyalty and friendship. Even when he and I don’t agree on an issue, I can always trust him to be straightforward and honest and give me a fair hearing.”

During the past six years, Campbell has presided over the Senate, which tackled legislation related to a host of contentious issues, from marriage equality and GMO labeling to paid sick leave and marijuana legalization earlier this year.

“There have been so many successful issues that we’ve dealt with over the years, but there remains the perennial problems, like property taxes and health care,” Campbell said. “There comes time when you need a fresh set of eyes and ears on something.”

Campbell said there are a number of people currently in the Senate who could fill his shoes, including:

— Sen. Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden, who is currently the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “He’s somebody who’s clearly a smart guy,” Campbell said. “He understands politics and he understands policy, especially as it relates to finance.”

— Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare. “She is the voice of health care in the Senate, and somebody who is respected by her colleagues,” Campbell said.

— Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden. Campbell noted that, as the current Senate majority leader, Baruth has the leadership experience needed to be pro-tem.

— Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington. Campbell noted her previous post as chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.

josh.ogorman @rutlandherald.com

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