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Under The Golden Dome:
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Program 3:
Philip Hoff and Reapportionment

Philip Hoff was elected Governor in 1962, the first Democratic Governor in over 100 years which served as a watershed of changing politics. In 1965 Reapportionment was accomplished which reduced the House from 246 to 150 members, no longer basing representation on geography but on population. This of course had a major impact on the Legislature and on Vermont.

Transcript:

Richard Mallary

1963 Phil Hoff was inaugurated governor.

George Little

I think when Phil was elected he made some significant changes in the way state government worked. And I think that that was the point in the history of Vermont that changed the way we did things back earlier and we began to catch up with the twentieth century when Phil got in.

Gregory L. Sharrow

In the late 1950s, Vermont was undergoing major changes – construction of the national interstate system was under way. With the interstate came an influx of new faces and ideas, gradually changing the makeup of the legislature. Ray Keyser preceded Phil Hoff as governor.

Governor F. Ray Keyser Jr.

I served two years as Governor, ran for re-election and, after a recount in an off year, Phil Hoff was elected Governor. This was a watershed of changing of politics. I recognized that at the time, although very few people in Vermont, having had a hundred and four years of Republican governors, realized the political scene in Vermont was changing. Before the election I had done a graph of the voting in the off years. This is non-presidential years. And where, when I was elected in a presidential year, received the most votes of any Republican candidate at that point, four years before that in an off year when Bob Stafford was elected, he won on a very slim margin after a recount. And the trend, if you started back in the early fifties through, in the off years, ignoring the presidential years, the votes for the Democratic candidate kept climbing and climbing. And if you drew a graph of it, they crossed in the year that Phil Hoff was elected.

Governor Philip Hoff

I’ve looked back at my election. It’s true that I was the focal point, but if you look back over the last few elections in Vermont, you can see the Democrats beginning to emerge as a real political force in this state.

Gregory L. Sharrow

Hoff and the Democrats ushered in a change that was long overdue -- the end to the old one-town, one-vote system, which had been ruled unconstitutional in Federal court. Even as they made the changes, everyone knew that reapportionment of the legislature would dramatically change Vermont’s political landscape forever.

Peter Mallary

Reapportionment was an incredibly powerful historical moment. People sat in that chamber and voted themselves out of a job. I don’t know how it gets more emotional than that for a politician. For a public servant.

Gregory L. Sharrow

The old system was so out of balance that when Hoff was elected to represent Burlington, he sat one seat away from Gertrude Mallary, who represented Fairlee.

Gertrude Mallary

I had as much clout in the House as the member from Burlington. And of course, that was obviously wrong. And reapportionment, it changed the House most of all because it reduced the House from 246 members to 150. And it was in terms of population, not of geography. The ridiculous thing, the amazing thing is how long the old way lived before it succumbed, I mean it’s completely unequal for me to have as much of a vote as the member from Burlington.

Richard Mallary

I think it was because of the people who recognized that this was the end of an era... the concern of the rural areas that... the historic power of the rural areas and the agricultural community was going to be seriously dissipated

Gregory L. Sharrow

When Hoff asked Bill Billings to convene a committee on Reapportionment, Billings picked Emory Hebard, a Republican from Glover, to chair the committee. Hoff was furious.

Robert Billings

And I said, “Governor, I think you must think, and I’ll tell you what you’ve got to think, that Emory Hebard can get the small towns to realize this is the law, even though they’re voting themselves out of office. And we can’t get them. I can’t get them and you can’t get them. And it’ll work out.”

Gregory L. Sharrow

The passage of the Reapportionment bill in 1965 was a pivotal moment in Vermont’s history. Former governor Tom Salmon remembers Vivian Tuttle, Town Clerk and Representative from Stratton, which then had about 40 residents.

Governor Tom Salmon

And my memories that night were Vivian Tuttle, a little lady, very short, diminutive, a very slight build, with her hands literally quaking— she wasn’t a public speaker, but getting up to explain her vote, why she was going to vote in favor of reapportionment and vote herself out of a job. And then, later that evening, a farmer from Stannard, up in the Northeast Kingdom, Frank Hutchins rose, a dairy farmer, and rued this backwater decision to dismember the House. And, you know, real tears flowed down his eyes. And that was very moving.

Governor Philip Hoff

And I recognized that, for him and for many Vermonters, this constituted a major change in their lives and their concept of what Vermont was all about. And I defy anybody who saw that man and heard him not to have been sympathetic. You know, there are very few absolutes in this world and each of us tends to build our own world around ourselves and our background and our history and our philosophies. And you have to be sympathetic to that, I think. So yes he broke into tears and it was, quite honestly, I understood.

Catherine Beattie

They reapportioned and Danville was placed with Danville, Peacham and Groton. And then I didn’t run again. It has changed the whole complexion of the Legislature. It really has. It’s just progress and change, that’s all.

Governor Tom Salmon

We could never have got there were it not for two people. One was Governor Hoff, the other was Speaker Franklin Billings. They summonsed a meeting of a group of Republicans and Democrats they viewed as moderates, or at least open to persuasion. We met on night -- and they both made sterling appeals for this group of moderates to come together and reach closure on one of the reapportionment bills, so we could move on with our life and not find ourselves embarrassingly in violation of Federal Order to get reapportionment done. So the success story of reapportionment, getting the job done, was truly bipartisan.

Governor Philip Hoff

No question that reapportionment— it changed the nature of Vermont, really. Changed the nature of the Legislature.

Gregory L. Sharrow

We heard the voices of Richard Mallary, George Little, Ray Keyser, Philip Hoff, Peter Mallary, Gertrude Mallary, Franklin Billings, Tom Salmon, and Catherine Beattie. All are former members of the Vermont Legislature.

The interviews were sponsored by the Snelling Center for Government. This series was produced by the Vermont Folklife Center of Middlebury by Bob Merrill and Jane Beck. Funding for this series was provided by the Vermont Community Foundation and the Windham Foundation. I’m Greg Sharrow.

 

 


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