MONTPELIER - On Wednesday, Jan. 5, Gov. Jim Douglas (R) delivered his farewell address to a joint session of the General Assembly, reflecting on the accomplishments of his administration and thanking Vermonters for the opportunity to serve.
Douglas also prepared "The Douglas Years: Dedicated to Vermonters," a brief look back on the ideas, proposals, initiatives, issues, successes and challenges that marked his eight years as governor.
"Thirty-eight years ago, in this very chamber, I was sworn in as the new member from Middlebury - humbled by the confidence of voters, motivated to represent my community and inspired to strengthen Vermont," Douglas said. "Over the years I have been blessed to serve the people of this great state in different ways - and in different eras - culminating with the honor, and profound responsibility, of the governorship."
When Douglas contemplated running for governor in 2001, he outlined his reasons for wanting to serve in that office.
"I love Vermont," he had written. "I want every Vermonter to reach his or her highest potential. I want every child to begin life in good health, with a loving family, and eager to learn. I want every young Vermonter to be able to access a higher education and to secure meaningful and rewarding work. I want families to be able to afford a home and ultimately to enjoy retirement in comfort and dignity ..."
Douglas said he carried that piece of paper with him every day.
"This vision was at the center of every discussion, every proposal and every decision. My inspiration never changed. My motivation never wavered."
Of his four, two-year terms as governor, Douglas said he is most proud of health care reform, community safety, environmental protection, and the state's economy and fiscal strength.
"Over the last eight years we fought back against two global recessions, including the deepest downturn since the Great Depression. We did that with fiscal discipline and innovative economic development strategies to encourage employers to expand here and others to locate here. We renewed our commitment to our traditional industries by helping those who keep our working landscapes working. We leveraged our natural gifts in support of our tourism economy and helped Vermont businesses realize greater access to emerging foreign markets. We took steps to make our permitting system more predictable and our tax policies more competitive.
"Vermont's brand of quality, our deserved reputation for a well-educated workforce and our commitment to environmental excellence make this a great place to start or grow a business."
As he prepared to hand over "the reins to a new administration," Douglas wished Gov.-Elect Peter Shumlin and his team "the very best," and he reflected on 38 years of state service before heading home to Middlebury for the last time as Vermont's 80th governor.
"I've focused all of my energies on a singular purpose - to make Vermont a better place. Across thousands of miles, through bright morning dawns and days that stretched to night, though sometimes weary, I never lost faith in the promise of Vermont. And as the long arc of my career draws close, I look back and know with all certainty that our state and her people have been most worthy of a life's work.
"In the years to come, as I pass over the high gaps of the Green Mountains and take in the full breadth of Vermont - from its clear flowing waters up to its majestic crowns - I will be forever thankful for this land we call home."