Statesman Bob Stafford celebrates 90 years

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(Host) Former Vermont Senator Robert Stafford turns 90 years old Friday. The state is honoring the man who served Vermont as an attorney general, lieutenant governor, governor, congressman and finally, U.S. senator.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Governor Jim Douglas has declared Friday “Bob Stafford Day” in Vermont.

(Douglas) “Bob is a mentor of mine. He’s one of the finest public servants Vermont has ever known. I admire him a great deal. He played a vital role in making Vermont the very special place it is and encouraging the people of our state to place great value on our natural heritage and the quality of our environment.”

(Zind) Stafford and his wife Helen live in Rutland, where Stafford was born and grew up. The lifelong Republican says considering his age, he’s hesitant to comment too much on current events. He says he does keep tabs on environmental and education issues – the two areas that interested him most during his years in Washington. Stafford retired in 1989.

The low key, statesmanlike approach to politics that marked Stafford’s career is still evident. He generally approves of the job President Bush is doing and would rather not comment than criticize on issues where he doesn’t see eye to eye with the president. Partisanship in modern day politics is the one thing he laments.

(Stafford) “There’s more partisanship now then there was in my day, when the majority of the members of the House and Senate – as I recall them – wanted to get things done.”

(Zind) Stafford says he’s surprised by Howard Dean’s campaign success, but he’ll remain true to the Republican Party even if the former Vermont Governor ultimately wins the Democratic Presidential nomination.

(Stafford) “If President Bush wants to run again, I expect I would support him. But I certainly would have to say, I admire the way Dean has put himself forward.”

(Zind) As for how it feels to turn 90, Stafford says he feels fortunate to be able to celebrate such a milestone.

(Stafford) Well, I guess I’m lucky to still be alive at 90.”

(Zind) Stafford will attend a birthday party with some 50 family members and friends on Saturday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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