Randy Brock wants to be the lieutenant governor of ideas.
The office itself doesn’t amount to much — preside over the Senate, break any tie votes, stand in when the governor’s out of state. Brock thinks it can be much, much more.
Brock, a Republican, is competing with David Zuckerman, a Democrat/Progressive, for a two-year term as lieutenant governor.
In state government, Brock says, “we patch a lot of potholes,” but where should Vermont be in 10 or 15 years? How can the state make its economy vibrant, create opportunities for every resident, and “turn this battleship around that’s essentially dead in the water?”
Lots of little ways, he says: Talk to people in the trenches, form alliances, work with others to come up with solutions, negotiate, and keep on working. “It’s the persistence of an idea,” Brock said in an interview. “Not just germinate, but pursue.”
Before he was an investment executive, Brock was an investigator. He has taught investigators all over the world how to handle white-collar crime. The best advice: “Try, try, try.” Try one avenue; if it doesn’t work, try another, and another.
And, like a good investigator, he wants the truth. Do state programs work? Do job-training efforts work? Do state job-creation incentives work? When jobs are created, how long do the new employees stay in them?
State programs need to be effective, he says, and state employees need to treat citizens as if they were customers — help them be successful, rather than trying to keep them from doing something wrong.
For instance, he says, a large percentage of Vermonters represent themselves in court cases. Every court date means a lost day of work. Why not hold court on nights and weekends?
Consider permits for projects, Brock says. First you need a local permit, then a state permit, then a review by the environmental court. You have to start over every time. How difficult would it be to pursue all three paths simultaneously, saving time and improving efficiency? Often, there’s a window for a business opportunity, and too much delay allows the window to close.
“Be efficient, thoughtful and more friendly” is Brock’s advice.
Vermont living expenses outpace pay for a lot of people, Brock says. If the state can solve its problems with jobs and stagnant growth, that’s a big part of solving problems of affordable housing, the cost of living, and the opiate epidemic — a result of lack of hope and opportunity.
On taxes, Vermont needs a system people can understand, Brock says. School taxes are a mystery now, unrelated to the local school budget. Tax breaks pop up in unexpected places. For instance, Brock says, Vermont imposes no sales tax on locomotives. Why?
“Every tax break raises the costs for someone else,” he says.
He says the EB-5 scandal at Jay Peak has given the state a black eye, but the program could be truly valuable. Why not use money from foreign investors for public projects, rather than just private projects? Why wouldn’t Vermont welcome EB-5 money for bridges, roads, school construction, and solving Lake Champlain’s pollution problems?
Brock has a million questions about state government, and would love to be able to ask them as the lieutenant governor.
Age 73; lives in Swanton
Vermont auditor of accounts, 2005-07; state senator, 2009-13; Republican nominee for governor, 2012
Middlebury College graduate, master’s degree from Yale
Captain in the U.S. Army, service in Vietnam, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal
Retired executive vice president for Fidelity Investments Married, one daughter