After nearly a decade in Montpelier, Milton’s Rep. Ron Hubert is resigning his post.
The decision comes after a particularly tough session for the Chittenden-10 Republican, he said. Thorny political debates under both a new governor and new House leadership made for many late nights and an extended session, culminating in a day-long veto session on June 21 after weeks of closed-door negotiations.
For 64-year-old Hubert, who said he’s “not getting any younger,” that made the choice to leave – something he’s mulled in the past – easier to reach. Returning from the State House at 10:30 p.m. and rising at 4 in the morning to open Middle Road Market, the business he’s owned for three decades, took its toll.
“It’s time for me,” Hubert said in his store Monday, pausing to greet a steady stream of lunchtime customers. “I signed up for two years nine years ago, so I’ve done my part.”
Though he officially made the decision June 1, Hubert promised Gov. Phil Scott he would stay for the veto session.
He said stepping down in the middle of his term, which ends January 2019, will allow someone else to “get their feet wet” before deciding whether to run for reelection as a sitting member for the next biennium.
It will also provide a new rep the chance to learn from Hubert’s seatmate, Rep. Don Turner, the House minority leader.
By 2019, though, Chittenden-10 may have entirely new representation: Turner, the sole finalist for Milton’s open town manager position, intends to complete his legislative term but said he will likely not seek reelection if selected for the town job.
Though they represent just half of Milton’s state reps, Hubert and Turner are the only legislators who solely represent the town. Rep. Mitzi Johnson, the Democratic House speaker, and newcomer and fellow Democrat Rep. Ben Joseph split their district with the Islands.
Turner said staggering Hubert’s resignation with his own departure made sense, noting he’d use his final session to acclimate Hubert’s replacement, who would be in a better position to help another new rep in 2019.
“Both of us leaving at the exact same time would leave a huge void for the town of Milton,” Hubert said. “All in all, this is good for me, it’s good for the town, and I think it’s good for Don. I don’t think it would be good for both of us to walk away at the same time.”
“The other thing is that getting a new person there gives new insight, and hopefully it’s a younger person,” he said.
Hubert believes he’s left Milton in a good place, noting the party has put forth two candidates, though he wouldn’t disclose their names. His term officially ends July 1, after which Gov. Scott will name a replacement. Traditionally, governors appoint candidates of the same party, meaning another Republican will represent the town.
A decade ago, Hubert got a call from then-Gov. Jim Douglas, who told the small business owner he could “make a difference” in Montpelier.
Two years turned into nine, and Hubert’s decision to heed Douglas’ call proved advantageous. Hubert said he’s still awed by the community support received throughout his service.
“By far it is the best job you can ever have,” he said. “It is absolutely an honor and a privilege to have served and to be there, and to believe – and I truly do believe – that I have made a difference.”
Hubert spent his tenure on the House Committee on Government Operations, eventually ascending to his most recent post of vice-chairman. His interest in gov ops was piqued by his own first election, which he won against Milton Democrat Reg Godin by 74 votes, prompting a recount.
Uncontested, Hubert’s last two elections have gone “a lot better,” he said with a laugh.
Hubert began this year’s session with another recount – this time for an Orange County House race. The victor, Republican Rep. Bob Frenier, likened the complicated ordeal to “a comedy of errors,” Vermont Public Radio reported in February.
Around the same time, Hubert introduced a bill to authorize a casino in Vermont. It’s the third time he’s offered the proposal, which would allow the Vermont Lottery Commission to issue one six-year license for a $6 million fee. Once again, it stalled in committee.
“I thought it would help the state out tremendously,” Hubert said. “That didn’t get a fair vetting, [which is] probably my biggest disappointment in nine years.”
Preferring to focus on achievements, Hubert counts among them bills with personal connections, like Jordan’s Bill – a piece of the 52-page S.9 legislation signed into law by former Gov. Peter Shumlin in June 2015.
The bill imposed more stringent measures to protect children from abuse and neglect, removing the need to establish “reasonable cause” before reporting abuse, which new language requires be done within 24 hours.
Hubert sponsored H.41, a portion of the law, to honor the late Jordan Preavy, a former Milton student who committed suicide in 2012 after suffering sexual assault in a football team hazing ritual. Hubert introduced the bill after learning the state’s vague mandated reporting law protected Milton school administrators from criminal charges in the matter.
“It was the right thing to do,” Hubert said of the bill’s passage. “It was a look forward, not a look back, so that those types of situations would never happen to another child.”
A child was at the heart of another of Hubert’s bills this session, H.545: His grandson.
Signed two weeks ago, the bill requires any chains or barriers placed across roads to be marked with reflectors. Hubert’s teenage grandson was seriously injured last year after crashing into a cable he couldn’t see across the road. He’s since endured over 25 surgeries, the most recent scheduled for this week in Cincinnati.
Others weren’t so fortunate, Hubert said, noting similar accidents in Vermont have resulted in two decapitations in the last five years. He hopes the simple measure will prevent future tragedy.
Though less personal, the public records law rewrite is another source of pride for Hubert, who played an integral role from his seat on the Public Records Legislative Study Committee. He spent two summers reviewing 247 exemptions to Vermont’s public records law, refining and centrally locating them to one location.
Hubert was unwavering in his stance on the session’s hottest political debates. He staunchly opposed the effort to legalize recreational marijuana and has supported a statewide teachers’ contract long before Scott introduced his contentious proposal for one this year.
Examiners of Hubert’s voting record may notice a milestone this session, which marked the first time he ever voted to approve a budget, as it was the first proposal that didn’t raise taxes or fees, a promise he made to constituents nine years ago.
“We’re headed in the right direction. I hope that they can sustain where they are,” Hubert said. “Unfortunately, Vermont had been becoming very unaffordable to the working class, and that’s who I represented, who I always wanted to represent: the people paying the bills … Milton is a blue-collar, hardworking community.”
Hubert believes he’s lived up to his campaign slogan, “A Strong Voice for Milton,” and Turner agreed he has.
“He went to Montpelier not really knowing what it was to serve in that role, and I think he’s done a really great job adapting, and he’s been effective,” Turner said. “He’s clearly communicated a message that Milton is conservative … you have to stand up for people and small business.”
What’s more, Hubert has also stood up for Turner: The minority leader partially credits his seatmate with his own ascension to leadership, noting Hubert was always “a real advocate” for Turner.
“We didn’t always agree … but it’s OK, we still were friends,” Turner said. “It’s always been an honor to serve Milton, but it’s been a real pleasure to serve with Ron.”
In his near decade under the golden dome, Hubert has made plenty of friendships across party lines, but he’s quick to pinpoint what he’ll miss most: his rides to the State House with Turner.
Hubert often served as a foil for Turner, balancing the latter’s calm with his trademark high energy.
“I’m definitely gonna miss serving with him for sure,” Turner said.
For Hubert, resigning means more time to manage the store, golf and spend with his family, including Claire, his wife of 37 years, his three daughters and eight grandchildren, one of whom called out to him Monday at the market: The deli slicer wasn’t working.
Hubert rose from his chair and ambled over to the counter.
“Now, back to work,” he said.