MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has chosen former Vermont Retail and Grocers Association President Jim Harrison to fill the remainder of former Republican Rep. Job Tate’s term in the Vermont House.
Harrison, 63, of North Chittenden, retired from VRGA at the end of 2016 after nearly 30 years leading the organization. Tate, who was serving his second term representing the Rutland-Windsor 1 House district, resigned Friday as he prepares for a lengthy overseas deployment with the Navy Seabees.
Harrison said he received a call from Scott Monday evening and was told he would be appointed to replace Tate.
“I am very, very honored and flattered to be appointed to fulfill Job’s House seat. I will do everything I can to not only serve our district, but serve the entire state and try to do what I can, as one member can do, in terms of promoting economic growth and promoting a better Vermont,” Harrison said.
Harrison will serve the remainder of Tate’s term and said he plans to run in 2018 as a Republican to retain the seat.
“I will serve as long as the voters in this district think I’m doing a good job for them. I hope to reach out to as many as I can to let them know that I’m accessible and will certainly appreciate their input,” he said.
Dave Soucy, the golf professional and general manager at Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, was also considered for the post. Soucy said he also received a call Monday evening and was informed he would not be appointed.
“I’m disappointed that I wasn’t selected to replace Job. I want to congratulate Jim Harrison. He has years of experience in Montpelier and the district and the state of Vermont will be well-represented by Jim,” Soucy said. “I also want to thank the governor for being considered and I look forward to being involved in state politics in the future.”
Harrison, who works at Green Mountain National part-time, called Soucy a friend and said he regretted they were both seeking the appointment.
“I’m sorry I had to compete for the appointment with Dave. I think a lot of Dave,” he said.
Harrison said he may be sworn in as early as Tuesday.
As a long time lobbyist for VRGA, Harrison spent plenty of time testifying on business issues in the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, where Tate served. Harrison said he will be happy to serve on any committee House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, chooses to place him.
“I haven’t looked ahead in terms of where I can best serve. That’s up to the speaker. I am very happy and comfortable if she decides to keep me in the same position,” he said.
Emails from Harrison to the governor’s office, obtained through a public records request, show that Harrison first approached the governor’s office on January 17 about fulfilling Tate’s term.
The governor’s staff had been considering Harrison for weeks, according to the emails.
“Would you please call Jim. He needs to be thinking about how to get Job’s endorsement and win support among the town and county committees,” Gibbs wrote to Brittney Wilson, a top aide to Scott, on March 21.
Tate said Harrison was his top choice to replace him.
“When I knew I had to go, he was the first person that came to mind,” Tate said. “I am very excited for my constituents. I think Jim Harrison is going to move legislation in a way that, perhaps, the Legislature isn’t used to.”
Tate said Harrison is “respected widely on both sides of the aisle.”
“I think Jim Harrison is a rare individual and we are lucky to have him on the team,” he said.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Disclosure: Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami is the partner of VRGA President Erin Sigrist.