Speaker of the House announces retirement

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(Host) House Speaker Walter Freed says he won’t seek re-election to the Legislature in November because he feels it’s time for him to move on to other challenges. Freed says he has no plans to run for higher office in the future.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Freed has represented the town of Dorset in the Vermont House for the past 12 years and he’s served as Speaker for two terms. When he was elected Speaker in January of 2001 it marked the first time in 16 years that a Republican held that post.

Freed says he actually decided not to seek re-election over a year ago but he decided to wait to make a formal announcement.

Freed, who served as state chairman of the Republican Party prior to his first election to the House, says he’d like to take some time off and consider some other options that might be available to him. He made it clear that running for statewide office is not high on his list:

(Freed) “It’s been a constant campaign – not only my own, but the campaigns of all my Republican colleagues. It’s been a busy 16 years in politics and I’m hoping that there is some life after politics that there’s something to talk about besides government politics with the folks I meet on the street. As much as I loved it it’s been a great job and a great opportunity. You have to plan that there is also some end to it or some moving on.”

(Kinzel) Freed says his biggest accomplishment as speaker has been to provide a counter-balance to the policies of the Democratically controlled Senate – particularly on Act 60:

(Freed) “I am proud of the work that- at least after the court order and the Democratic majorities in the mid-1990s put through Act 60 – that in my tenure as speaker we were able to mitigate that, get rid of the sharing pool and change that structure.”

(Kinzel) Freed says he deliberately timed his announcement while the Legislature was in session to give House Republicans an opportunity to select a new leadership team. That’s something he says was not done 20 years ago when a Republican speaker stepped down and Freed thinks that situation hurt the Party’s chances of staying in power:

(Freed) “To understand when they leave here at the end of this month or in early May and go into the campaign mode into the campaign cycle that they coalesce behind a Republican leadership team and not just a committee that leaves things undecided.”

(Kinzel) Following Freed’s announcement, GOP House members did coalesce around a new leader; they informally agreed that Appropriations Chairman Richard Westman would be their strongest candidate to succeed Freed next January.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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