Shumlin Appoints Irene Recovery Officer

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(Host) Governor Peter Shumlin has reached out to a veteran state administrator to oversee Vermont’s recovery from Tropical Storm Irene.

Shumlin appointed Neale Lunderville to coordinate the state’s efforts. Lunderville served in several top positions under former Governor Jim Douglas.

The Shumlin administration also says it’s made progress in finding new work space for 1,500 state employees displaced by the storm.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) As a top aide to Republican Jim Douglas, Neale Lunderville worked both as Transportation Secretary and Administration Secretary – the position that oversees all of state government.

Shumlin said Lunderville’s experience and skills will serve the state well.

(Shumlin) "I don’t that think we could find a Vermonter who cares more about Vermont, who has more administrative ability to get tough things done, whose heart and soul is committed to this great state than Neal."

(Dillon) Lunderville has been working as an executive for Green Mountain Power.

The utility gave him an unpaid leave of absence until the end of the year so he can serve as Irene recovery troubleshooter for Shumlin.

And although he is a Republican and supported Shumlin’s opponent in the last election, Lunderville said the problems created by Irene transcend politics.

(Lunderville) "Today, and this job, is not about politics. This is about coming together, about working as Vermonters first, to do what is right at a time that the state needs all the help it can get."

(Dillon) Lunderville says one of his jobs will be to find money to repair the storm damage.

(Lunderville) "We look at every possible rabbit hole for any available dollars. We shake every tree. We look in the state budgets. We look in the federal budgets. And we figure out how we can be creative and innovative and get every dollar we can get."

(Dillon) One huge challenge is simply getting the machinery of state government back in place. The storm flooded the state office complex in Waterbury, displacing about 1,500 state employees.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding says leases will soon be signed for office space in Chittenden and Washington counties.

He says some workers will probably move to vacant space at IBM in Essex, while others will work out of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation headquarters in Winooski. The state is also looking at office space in Barre and Waitsfield.

(Spaulding) "Some of them will hold 100 or more employees, others would be 40 or 50. And some are as small as 10 or 15. Obviously we’re looking for as many of the larger ones so we can at least have some kind of integration and coordination among departments and divisions."

(Dillon) The Shumlin administration is considering options for the long term. One issue is whether to rebuild damaged offices in Waterbury, or relocate workers in newer offices away from the floodplain.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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