Vermont Business Magazine Shapleigh "Shap" Smith became the first declared candidate for governor today, as the Democratic Speaker of the House made the announcement in his home town of Morrisville. Smith, 49, is an attorney with Dinse Knapp & McAndrew PC in Burlington and has been Speaker for three terms. He previously was a member of the House. Born in Connecticut, he graduated from the university of Vermont in 1987 and the Indiana University School of Law in 1991.
Shap Smith announces candidacy in Morrisville August 19, 2015.
Welcome to Morrisville and Lamoille County. Morrisville is an incredible community. This is where I grew up, where my wife Melissa and I decided to raise a family. It’s where our wonderful kids, Eli and Mia, spend time with their friends and prepare for the world at our local middle school, a place where I was a student nearly 40 years ago.
Today, I asked you, my family, my friends, and my colleagues, to gather here in the heart of Morrisville, in the heart of Vermont, to announce my candidacy for Governor of the State of Vermont.
I’m running for Governor because the success of towns like Morrisville will be a vital part of our future. And because I want every Vermonter to have the opportunities and the choices that I have had.
In the early 1970s, my mom and dad moved to Wolcott in search of community. My father left behind his career as a bank manager and worked two jobs: one at a Christmas tree farm, and another as a carpenter. He later started a farm, 200 sheep and 2,000 maple taps, and moonlighted building houses because he couldn’t make enough money on the farm. Like many Vermonters, he had to create his own business and so he did. My mom also followed her own path to public service as town clerk.
My brothers and I experienced the joy of growing up in rural Vermont. Some of it was hard work – putting in hay, helping out with sugaring, stacking wood. Some of it was fun – cross country skiing in the fields, swimming in nearby ponds, bumper cars at the Barton Fair. But when I graduated from UVM, I realized I wanted to see what other parts of the country had to offer. I left Vermont to attend law school in the Midwest and then took my first job in New York City. I remember sitting on the 30th floor of a skyscraper and knew something wasn’t right. I felt a pull to return home, to return to the sense of community Vermont offered and the opportunity to raise a family and build my career in Vermont.
And when I came back to Morrisville, I would spend time right in this spot. This was Arthur’s, the department store Arthur and Theresa Brault built 40 years ago. I got my prom tux here, and my work shirts, and clothes for my kids. And I got all the news here, and saw my neighbors here. Arthur’s was the center of downtown, and when it closed in 2010, it left a hole. Morrisville was at a crossroads.
But here’s what happened. With state and community partners, our little town worked incredibly hard to transform the building into what is it now – housing that people in Morrisville needed and could afford. It took a long time. It took incredible dedication. And it’s a great example of a town investing in itself, moving from the past to the future.
Throughout Morrisville you see this commitment and investment. Just down the road is Concept 2, the global leader in indoor rowing equipment, Ecofasten Solar, an innovative company that’s part of our strong Vermont solar industry, Butternut Farm, one of Vermont’s top maple syrup producers. We have Lost Nation and Rock Art, two terrific craft breweries, and Green Mountain distillery making spirits. Down the road we have Bee’s Knees, Thompson’s, Moog’s, three amazing restaurants and gathering places. Organizations like Salvation Farms and the revitalized church housing Meals on Wheels and the River Arts Center. All of these contribute to the transformation, to making our community stronger and more vibrant.
This is no accident. Morrisville has invested in its downtown, its Oxbow Park, its transportation infrastructure. Entrepreneurs, elected officials, community volunteers, educators, artists have all come together to shape this community over the years.
Morrisville isn’t alone – cities and towns across the state are leading the way. From St. Albans to Winooski to Rutland, from Hardwick to Barre to Brattleboro, these communities and others have invested in their downtowns and their local businesses and are seeing the returns on those investments. Our state government needs to be an active partner in supporting vibrant and livable downtowns, because we know that strengthening local economies will be what attracts young people and keeps them here.
Together we will build on this foundation, invest in our strengths and keep Vermont a place where people want to live, work, grow up and grow old.
Like Morrisville, Vermont has to invest in itself. We need to draw on the passion and talents that are everywhere – at the local level, at the state level – to create the Vermont that we want. Every Vermonter I talk to, all around the state, wants to make our state strong and successful.
As Governor, I want our state to be the state of opportunity – for entrepreneurs, for working families, for our young people. I will support the local businesses that invest in their workers, invest in their communities, and protect the landscape.
As Governor, I want Vermont to be the state of equality. When we led the nation in establishing the right of people to marry those whom they love, one of the most meaningful and emotional moments of my life, we were building on our core belief that all of us are equal, sending a message from schoolyards to workplaces that we should all be treated the same.
As Governor I want to lead a state of excellence, where we work hard to make sure that every child has equal educational opportunity, so every young adult has access to affordable college, and people who seek training can get it. So all of our friends and neighbors have access to affordable, quality health care, and every Vermonter can earn a good living.
Shap Smith with Governor Shumlin and Senate leaders at the opening of the Legislature in January 2013. VBM photo.
In my work as a legislator and as Speaker, I’ve listened to Vermonters’ concerns, standing on the sidelines of youth soccer games, in local bars and restaurants, and attending meetings in town halls; I’ve heard their feedback, and have put those ideas into action to move our state forward. And I am committed to being a candidate and a Governor who listens, learns, and leads in partnership with Vermonters every day.
The candidacy I announce today and the vision I will bring to the Governor’s office are rooted in a deep appreciation of the strengths of these hills and of these people. Like Morrisville, Vermonters working together can reinvest, reinvigorate, and continue to grow and thrive.
Vermont is the state I grew up in, the state I came back to, the state I love, and the state I seek to lead. Today I ask for your trust and support in my candidacy for Governor of the State of Vermont.