The architect of the Vermont Democratic Party's recent modernization and professionalization is stepping down.
After less than two years in the volunteer position, party chairman Jake Perkinson unexpectedly announced Wednesday that he plans to resign from the post on Saturday. He said vice chairwoman Dottie Deans of North Pomfret would lead the party on an interim basis, until the party elects a new chair.
The 42-year-old Burlington lawyer cited competing professional and family obligations and said the party would be just fine without him. While he hinted that he'd "had discussions with people" about possible job opportunities, he has no other immediate plans at present.
"I've always got things both from a business and a personal perspective I'm interested in pursuing, and the reality is the party takes a lot of time," Perkinson says. "The party's in a great position right now to go forward, and I don't have the arrogance to think I'm the only one to move it forward."
Perkinson, who also dabbles in real estate and political consulting, led the Burlington and Chittenden County branches of the party before taking the top job in the state apparatus. He became interim chairman in July 2011 when former chairwoman Judy Bevans resigned, and he was elected to a full term that November.
As we wrote last October, Perkinson presided over the party as it expanded its paid staff, improved its voter file and aggressively inserted itself into Burlington's local elections. During his tenure, the Dems succeeded at retaking Burlington City Hall for the first time in three decades, defending the governorship and winning the state auditor's office.
"I guess what's most gratifying is to see a closer connection between the party and the electeds," Perkinson says of his tenure. "The party has attained a level of professionalism and sustainability that I hope will carry forward into future elections."
Given his background in political consulting, fundraising and campaign finance law, Perkinson was an atypically skilled and hands-on party chairman. Though he didn't draw a salary, he served in nearly a full-time capacity during last fall's election season.
While Perkinson says the party's leadership has not yet settled on a succession plan, he notes that Burlington Democratic Party chairman David Scherr plans to run for vice chairman of the state party.
Neither Scherr nor Deans immediately returned calls for comment Wednesday.