by Nat Frothingham
John “Josh” Fitzhugh — a Berlin Republican convinced that state government has gotten too big, that it’s trying to do too much, and that it’s growing faster than the Vermont economy — is seeking one of three Washington County seats in the Vermont Senate on Election Day, November 8.
Fitzhugh won his place as one of three Republicans seeking election to the Vermont Senate by getting 199 write-in votes in the Vermont primary election on August 9.
The two other Republican candidates for election to the Vermont Senate are incumbent Senator Bill Doyle from Montpelier, as well as Mike Doyle from Montpelier (no relation.) Mike Doyle won his place on the ballot by getting 182 write-in votes in the August primary election.
Three Democrats from Washington County are also vying for Vermont Senate seats: incumbents Anne Cummings from Montpelier and Anthony Pollina from Middlesex, also first-time Senate candidate Francis Brooks from Montpelier.
In a prepared statement, Fitzhugh offered four reasons why Vermonters should vote for him.
“First, I think I bring a breadth of experience and accomplishment that could be useful in the State House. There are many issues on which I have no opinion but a willingness to learn, and at the end of the day, I tend to be a practical problem solver.”
Believes in the Private Sector
“Second,” wrote Fitzhugh,“I come with a strong bias in favor of the private sector, having spent all but three years of my life in private business.”
In an interview with The Bridge, Fitzhugh expanded on this strong belief. He emphasized families, not-for-profit organizations and businesses. “They’re the driving forces in our lives. We should respect that. Government has gotten too big.”
Fitzhugh discussed the hotly-criticized Vermont Health Connect website as one recent example of how government has gotten too big.
“The health care issue is an area where government has got overextended and has not done the job well,” he said. In developing the Health Connect website, Fitzhugh said, the State of Vermont spent $200 million and served 30,000 people.
Around the same time, Fitzhugh was chief executive officer of the Union Mutual Insurance Company in Montpelier during which Union Mutual made a sweeping change in its computer systems. “100,000 people got served by Union Mutual at the time,” said Fitzhugh. But the cost of the new computer systems was less than $10 million. Noting the stark difference in cost between the two, Fitzhugh said, “We spent an inordinate amount of money trying to develop the Health Connect website.”
“Here’s one of the reasons the Vermont Health Connect website cost so much,” he said. “We have developed a social service (safety) net with subsidies and cross-subsidies — I don’t know all the details. When it comes to trying to figure out on the healthcare side what kind of a subsidy the public should get, it adds enormously to the complexity of the government health care website. In my opinion,” Fitzhugh continued, “the answer to efficient government is to simplify programs and benefits so it doesn’t cost as much.”
Wants to Strengthen the Middle Class
“Middle class wage earners haven’t had much of a raise for about 30 years,” Fitzhugh said. “They’ve hardly kept pace with inflation. The answer is not to give subsidies and tax breaks. It’s to improve our job climate and our productivity. Some of it goes back to individual work ethics — how hard people work. The initiative has to come from individuals and families. I’d call that the private sector. That’s what I believe.”
In conclusion, Fitzhugh wrote, “I promise to be honest about the problems and my ideas for fixing them.
He said that at 68 years old, “I don’t envision a lifetime in politics. So, if elected … my first thought won’t be about winning in 2018. Now that may be good or bad, depending upon your point of view, but I think it’s good. And so, might I add, does my wife.”
Career Highlights: Josh Fitzhugh
1970: Dartmouth College graduate, major in Government
1970-1980: Career in Journalism: reporter/editor, Connecticut Valley Reporter, National Law Journal (NYC), business writer, Associated Press
1980-1982: Hearing officer, Vermont Department of Labor
1982-1990: Law partner, Sheehey Brue Gray in Burlington
1991-1993: Counsel to Gov. Richard Snelling, then Gov. Howard Dean
1993-2000: Private law practice in Montpelier
2000-2014: General Counsel, VP Claims, then CEO Union Mutual Insurance Company, Montpelier
2014-present: Tether Loop Farm, West Berlin (VT)
Josh Fitzhugh was President of the Board of Trustees of Kellogg-Hubbard Library from 1996 to 2002. During that time, Fitzhugh worked with people and community organizations in Central Vermont to seek support and raise money in order to construct an addition to the Library building. That addition -— called the “Leahy wing” — was completed in 2001.