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Explore our coverage of government and politics.

Shap Smith Announces Gubernatorial Run

VPR/Amy Noyes
House Speaker Shap Smith announced his run for governor in his home town of Morrisville

Wednesday morning in his hometown of Morrisville, House Speaker Shap Smith announced his run for governor.

Smith made his candidacy official last week with a filing to the Secretary of State's office, but hadn't made a formal public announcement.

In a prepared statement announcing his run, Smith focused on public investment to foster economic growth in Vermont, social equality and his life-long connection to the state.

Much of his statement focused on Morrisville itself, and how it’s thriving after a major department store closed in 2010 and left the town at a what he termed a “crossroads.”

“Morrisville has invested in its downtown, its Oxbow Park, its transportation infrastructure,” Smith said. “Entrepreneurs, elected officials, community volunteers, educators, artists have all come together to shape this community over the years.”

He said the same is happening across Vermont, and he hopes the state will do more to help downtowns, which he said could help attract more young people to Vermont.

“Our state government needs to be an active partner in supporting vibrant and livable downtowns, because we know that strengthening local economies will be what attracts young people and keeps them here,” he said.

Smith, a Democrat, is running to replace Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, who announced in June that he will not seek a fourth term in the state’s highest office.

Smith is the first to formally announce a 2016 run for governor, but other high-profile politicians are publicly considering candidacies of their own.

Google executive and former state senator Matt Dunne is also considering running as a Democrat, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is weighing a run.

Shap Smith may not be a household name in all corners of Vermont. But in his hometown, he’s known as a friend and neighbor as much Speaker of the House. What follows are some of the things the locals know, that may come as a surprise to Vermonters outside of Lamoille County.

First of all, Smith is named after his dad, and Shap is short for Shapleigh.

Family friend Heather Sargent says she's known Smith since he was born. "His mother turned out three sons and I had four sons. So you put that together and we’ve seen it all. We’ve been there, we’ve done it. Great family, great kids, and we’ve all been fortunate to have that connection."

Jill Baker went to school with Smith, and she remembers him as one of the smart kids at Peoples Academy High School.

"What I remember the most about Shap is I called him a bookworm," says Baker. "He was one of the few elite people in our small class of 61 or 62. And I always enjoyed it because some of the classes I was in with Shap, we always let Shap answer the questions because we knew he had the right answer. While the teacher was looking for one of the others to answer, it was always Shap with the hand up in the air, just waiting because he was so excited to answer that question."

Baker added that Smith was also easy to spot in the halls.  "I can still see him walking the hallways, his hair sometimes disheveled, but he always had his arms full of his binders and books," said Baker. "And I mean a lot of books and binders and the pen or pencil that was in his mouth, hanging out. Shap was unique. Great guy. I wish I spent more time with him, you know, hanging out during high school years. But again, he was one of the few smart ones in our class."

After High School, Smith went on to college and law school, then came back to Morrisville where he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2001. Former House Majority Leader Floyd Nease served with Smith. And when the Democrats took control of the house, Nease said Smith’s political career took off.

"When Gaye Symington became speaker, he went on to Ways and Means," said Nease. "He was just a star there. He’s always been that guy. And people did not believe he could win the Speaker’s race. And I think there will be people who don’t believe he can win this race. And I say early, and I will say it often, do not count that man out."

While Smith has never run for statewide office before, at least here on his home turf, it appears he has a lot of support.

Update 4:07 p.m. This post has been updated to include further reporting and comments from Heather Sargent, Jill Baker and Floyd Nease.

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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