Vermont Business Magazine Governor Peter Shumlin today appointed Chittenden County Senator Diane Snelling as Chair of the Natural Resources Board (NRB). Snelling replaces Jon Groveman who stepped down earlier this year. To replace Snelling in the Senate, the governor will appoint former Chittenden County Senator Helen Riehle. She will serve out the remainder of Snelling’s term and does not intend to run for election this fall. Both are Republicans and Snelling is the only Republican in six-seat Chittenden County. The appointments will be effective Wednesday.
ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz, far left, listens as Governor Shumlin announces that Senator Diane Snelling, second from left, has been appointed chair of the Natural Resources Board and Helen Reihle, far right, will replace her in the Senate. Governor's office photo.
Snelling, from Hinesburg, has served in the Senate since 2002 when she was appointed by Governor Howard Dean to fill the seat vacated by her mother, former Vermont Lieutenant Governor and First Lady Barbara Snelling. During her career in the Senate, Snelling championed clean water and shore land protection measures as well as serving as an integral member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
“I am proud to appoint Senator Snelling to this position,” Shumlin said. “Her deep policy knowledge of Act 250 as well as her well-deserved reputation for being thoughtful and non-partisan make her an ideal candidate for this position.”
"I'm grateful to the governor for this wonderful opportunity to continue to demonstrate my commitment to Vermont's environment,” Snelling said. “I look forward to working together to meet the challenges ahead.”
A University of Vermont graduate, Riehle served in the Vermont Legislature for almost two decades – 10 years in the House and eight years in the Senate – representing Chittenden County. She currently serves as Chair of the South Burlington City Council.
Under Vermont statute, the governor has the option of requesting nominees from the respective political parties and choosing among them, or making a direct appointment. On previous vacancies, Shumlin has requested submissions from the parties. However, given the expected legislative adjournment date is just over a month away and Riehle’s experience representing Chittenden County, the governor chose to make a direct appointment.
“With the session winding to a close, it is important for Chittenden County to have a Senator right away who is ready to hit the ground running,” Shumlin said. “I could not think of a person in a better position to do that than Helen, and I appreciate her willingness to serve out the remainder of Senator Snelling’s term.”
"I was honored when Governor Shumlin asked me to serve for the duration of Senator Snelling's term and excited to take on the challenge,” Riehle said. “I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones and working diligently to fill the very large shoes Diane leaves behind. I trust my past experience and the support of the Chittenden County delegation will help immensely."
Both Snelling and Riehle are 64 and from distinguished political families. Along with her mother's storied career, Snelling's father Richard was twice governor and Riehle's father-in-law Ted Riehle was a legislator who was the architect of Vermont's billboard ban, instituted in 1968.
Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott on Wednesday issued the following statement on the appointments of Diane Snelling and Senator-Designate Helen Riehle to the Vermont Senate:
“Senator Diane Snelling has long been a champion for Vermonters, Vermont’s environment and our natural resources. Though she will be missed in the Vermont Senate, I believe she will serve Vermont well as Chair of the Natural Resources Board, and wish her all the best in her new role. I look forward to working with former, and soon-to-be current Senator Helen Riehle, when she is sworn in today, as we need wise, pragmatic public servants to ensure the Legislature works for the best interests of all Vermonters. There is still very important business left to do in these final months of the biennium.”
In addition to administering the Act 250 program in the district offices, the NRB issues rules and policies related to Act 250, reviews requests to reconsider Jurisdictional Opinions, is responsible for enforcement of Act 250, and may participate as a party in appeals from Act 250 decisions at the Superior Court, Environmental Division.