Podcast: Hear Randy Brock discuss the issues
MONTPELIER — Randy Brock believes the future of Vermont is bright if it can attract and nurture new niche business industries that provide revenue and ease the tax burden on residents.
Brock, 72, a former Franklin County senator and state auditor, is seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. That should be easy — he faces no primary challenger. The real test for Brock will come in November when he faces one of three Democrats seeking their party’s nomination.
The longtime Swanton resident has plenty of experience campaigning. He was the GOP’s 2012 nominee for governor, but lost to Gov. Peter Shumlin who, at the time, was riding high following his response to Tropical Storm Irene.
He also has plenty of personal and business experience that he believes makes him well-suited for the state’s second-highest office. After obtaining a history degree from Middlebury College and a master’s degree in history from Yale, Brock served in the Army’s military police, including a tour in Vietnam. He retired from the Army as a captain heading the military police operations at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
That’s when he launched a security company that grew into a large firm of 1,000 employees in 16 states that he sold in the early 1980s.
“It started with me in my mobile home in East Middlebury. I built that business over time into a diversified security services company,” he said. “I did a lot of government contracting.”
Brock then entered Vermont politics, serving as the state’s auditor and as a senator. As auditor, Brock said he “looked under the hood of state government” and is ready to use the position of lieutenant governor to advocate for change.
“What we need to do is figure out how do we make Vermont have a vibrant economy so that there’s really a long-term future, so that kids don’t pack up and leave immediately, so that we don’t have an outflow of skills, so that we’re not 49th in the nation in population growth,” he said. “These are serious issues.”
Brock, having run for governor before, said he firmly believes that the second-in-command must be prepared to take over at any time.
“I joke around and say the job of the lieutenant governor is to wake up and inquire about the governor’s health. But, it’s a serious, deadly serious business, because we’ve had five times in Vermont history, starting with our first governor, Thomas Chittenden in 1792, who died in office,” Brock said. “This is not the amateur hour.”
As lieutenant governor, Brock hopes “to influence the future of Vermont five, 10 or 15 years down the road.” State government and it’s leaders have been too focused on putting out fires and patching holes in the budget at the expense of long-term planning and strategizing.
“Right now, the governor, the Legislature, they’re all focused on the short-term, right in front of us, because of this constant overspending that we’ve had, the constant amount of budget holes that we’ve had, the need to deal with the immediate,” he said. “As lieutenant governor, you have a blank piece of paper, with the exception of the constitutional duties of presiding over the Senate. You also have a platform. In my mind, I looked at what I think I do best and that is to be able to talk with people, to articulate ideas, to think outside of the box and to look at doing something differently that actually works and that can also bring some skills of competence and management ability and experience and financial acumen.”
Vermont, according to Brock, should be embracing ideas that are tested and able to be fine-tuned for the state. Launching out on a mission to accomplish a policy goal first should be left to others, he said.
“Whenever I hear somebody say we’re going to be first in the nation, one, I grab my wallet and I hide, because they always come out with bad results. I don’t want to be first in the nation. I want to have new old ideas. Ideas that I can see are working some place else — some other state, some other locality, some other country — that we can craft and make work here,” Brock said.
A bright economic future in Vermont will require embracing new niche industries, according to Brock. “The goal is, how do we find things that Vermont can do that bring revenue to the state that does not come out of the taxpayers pockets?” he said.
He said the state’s thriving captive insurance market is “a classic example” of the type of business Vermont should be looking to attract to create a diversified economy.
“If you take a niche industry, something that is not entirely unique but you put a twist on it in which you do it better than your competitors, Vermont, I think, has a tremendous opportunity in the niche business industries,” Brock said. “We can create unique regulatory environments that are friendly to particular industries and that are designed to be efficient for those industries.”
As a Republican, some might look to tie Brock to the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, the bombastic billionaire businessman. Brock said he has been clear that he does not support Trump and won’t be voting for him and hopes voters will differentiate between candidates in Vermont and Trump.
“I have a lot of confidence that Vermonters look at their candidates as people, not on the basis of labels, at least I certainly hope so,” he said. “I’m going to vote for a Republican for president in 2016 and it will not be Donald Trump. Period. It wouldn’t surprise me in the passage of time that a consensus candidate may emerge for those people who don’t believe Donald Trump is the right candidate and the best person to serve in that office.”
If elected, Brock said he will use the office to build consensus on ways to move the state and its economy forward.
“I think that I’ve got the ability to work with people on both sides of the aisle, despite the fact that our politics may differ. You talk to folks that I served with in the Senate, we all got along and at least they would listen,” he said. “What I have the ability to do is really to ferret out … new ideas.”