Vermont Business Magazine Former House Speaker Shap Smith and Sam & Mary Miller are the winners of this year’s David W Curtis Leadership Awards. The award is given to "outstanding" Vermont Democrats and the winners will be celebrated on May 5th at the 18th Annual David W Curtis Awards at the Burlington Hilton. Guest speaker will be New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Shapleigh Smith, Jr of Morrisville served seven terms in the Vermont House of Representatives representing the towns of Morrisville, Elmore, Woodbury and Worcester; elected in 2002, he was on the Ways & Means Committee before serving as Speaker from 2009-2016.
In 2009, he began his work as Speaker as the country struggled with the Great Recession. Shap focused his efforts on developing a budget that would restart the economy with infrastructure investment while strengthening programs to assist Vermont’s most vulnerable. He led the House through an unprecedented override of the Governor’s budget veto. That year also saw landmark action on one of the pivotal civil rights issues of our time, with the 2009 passage of the marriage equality bill. Shap helped bring the bill successfully through the House and then led the effort, alongside a strong coalition, to override the Republican Governor’s veto, making Vermont the first state to legalize gay marriage without a court order – a momentous event for Vermonters and an important symbol for the nation.
Throughout his legislative career, Shap worked to help Vermont change with the times and to empower communities. His leadership is characterized by listening, collaboration, and a strong drive to develop the best possible legislation that works for the greatest number of Vermonters. Highlights from his tenure include the passage of common-sense climate initiatives that helped increase Vermont’s strong renewables economy and reduced the use of fossil fuels in state government; equal access to quality education for all Vermont’s children through the expansion of pre-kindergarten, dual enrollment, higher education investment, and most recently efforts to reform our outdated education system; and strong advocacy for working Vermonters, including passage of paid sick days, increasing the minimum wage and fully funding unemployment. He is passionate about making sure there is equal opportunity for all Vermonters and that state resources are deployed to the benefit of all.
Shap grew up in Lamoille County and attended UVM; he earned his law degree from Indiana University and worked in New York City before returning to Vermont in 1993. He is a director and shareholder at Dinse, Knapp & McAndrew. He is a Trustee at the University of Vermont; a member of the board of Spectrum Youth Services; Chair of the Main Street Alliance Vermont Advisory Council; and a member of the board of the Alchemist Foundation. He and his wife Melissa Volansky, a family physician, have two children, Eli and Mia.
Sam & Mary Miller
Mary and L. Samuel Miller live in Waterbury Center, Vermont, and have served in executive roles in the Waterbury Democratic Town Committee for decades. Currently Mary is Vice Chair and Sam is Treasurer.
Born and raised in West Rutland and educated at Mildred Elley School in Albany, Mary (Pietryka) Miller worked as a legal secretary and a Democratic Party officer before being elected to represent West Rutland in 1962, serving in the 1963 biennium. In March 1962, she married L Samuel Miller, raised in Weston, VT and a graduate of Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester and the University of Portland, Oregon.
In 1959 while earning his master's in political science at UVM, Sam was the first Executive Director of the Vermont Democratic Party serving until just after Phil Hoff was elected the first Democratic Party governor since before the Civil War. Sam, was quick to recognize the changing political times and the potential opportunity to elect a Democrat in Vermont. Sam's approach to political strategy and tactics was known as "the Miller Rule," and helped transform rock-ribbed Republican Vermont into a liberal bastion by convincing Democrat leaders as well as county and town committees statewide that victory was near at hand.
After her legislative service, Mary served on the State Board of Education; she worked for Common Cause Vermont and then went on to work for Senator Patrick Leahy for 18 years.Retired from Senator Patrick Leahy’s staff, Mary now provides consulting services to several nonprofits. She is Vice Chair of the Board of Commissioners of the Vermont State Housing Authority, a member of the Economic Development Committee of Revitalizing Waterbury and a Corporator of the Northfield Mutual Holding Company. Sam still runs his life and health insurance business while advocating for veterans as the service officer of the Waterbury American Legion, and now retired as the long-time treasurer of the Vermont Woodlands Association. Sam and Mary have transferred their Tree Farm of over 50 years to their three sons: Ted, Mitch and Steve.
Together, Sam and Mary have been a force in state and local politics for nearly 60 years and have mentored and coached candidates, party volunteers and staff while serving in an incredible array of community roles, from the food shelf to their church community to the garden club. They have three sons and two grandchildren and show no signs of slowing down.
Source: Vermont Democratic Party 4.25.2017. www.vtdemocrats.org