Remembering Former US VT Senator Jim Jeffords

Published 08/18 2014 05:42PM

Updated 08/18 2014 05:46PM

Credit: United States Senate Historical Office
RUTLAND, Vt. - Former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords might be most famous for leaving the Republican party in 2001. He shifted the balance of power by becoming an Independent and caucusing with the Democrats.
Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce Director Tom Donahue was in Washington D.C. to meet with Jeffords that day, right after he talked with President George W. Bush.

Jeffords was about 45 minutes late for the meeting. "Understandably so,"  Donahue said. "It's amazing that Senator Jeffords even met with us that day.
Senator Jeffords always had time for Vermonters, according to former Rutland Mayor Jeff Wennberg, who used to work for Jeffords.
"He just knew what Vermonters wanted," Wennberg said. "He knew what was on their mind."
Vermonters trusted Jeffords, electing him the state's attorney general in 1968 when he helped eliminate billboards from Vermont roads.
Jeffords lost a run for governor in 1972, but was elected to the U.S. House of representatives in 1974, a position he held until 1988 when he was elected senator.

He served as senator until 2006, focusing on environmental issues, education and disability rights.
Senator Jeffords impact can be felt all over in this area. Whether it's photos showing him at a groundbreaking for the local airport, or this flag that flew over the capitol in 1998 and was given to the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce and its 100th anniversary.
"That's the kind of fellow that he was he was so thoughtful and recognizes those significant occasions like that but not with just a card but flying a flag over the capitol," Donahue said.
Even when Donahue met with Jeffords on the day he switched parties, a day that shook the political landscape of D.C., his focus was on Vermont.
"We never discussed it. he wanted to talk about the local project that we were down there for," Donahue said.
A man who was caught in the politics of the nation’s capital, but not enough to forget where he came from.

Jeffords, 80, died Monday.

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