A year after losing its last paid staffer, the Vermont Republican Party is seeking to rebuild its professional ranks.
To that end, party chairman Jack Lindley on Tuesday announced the hiring of a new political director: 29-year-old Texas native Brent Burns.
"We've got a whole lot of things to do," Lindley says. "Rebuilding the party structure, helping me with fundraising. Everything under the sun is his to do."
There's no question Lindley and Burns have a big job in front of them. The party's presence in the state has dramatically contracted in the few short years since former Republican governor Jim Douglas won his last statewide race in 2008. The GOP holds just one statewide office — that of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott — and is vastly outnumbered in the legislature.
Burns, an Army veteran and former political consultant, says he knows he's marching into an uphill battle.
"You're not always going to win," he says. "We get pretty comfortable winning in Texas, but there's definitely room for improvement [in Vermont]. The way I'm looking at it is as an opportunity to see what we can do as a party to not only separate us as a state, but also to build the brand of what it means as a Vermont Republican."
He adds, "We need to define ourselves."
A graduate of Texas A&M University, Burns worked as a political consultant for Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) before joining the Army in 2009. He recently completed a year-and-a-half-long deployment to Kuwait and decided to move to Vermont, where his wife's family has lived for six generations.
While he says he tired of the "nastiness" of Texas politics, Burns says he's looking forward to the political climate in Vermont.
"The sense that I have is, it's just a different culture," he says. "Vermont is filled on both sides with genuine statesmen, genuine stateswomen, who are looking out for all Vermonters."
Calling Burns "a breath of fresh air," Lindley says he'll be keeping an eye out for more paid staffers down the road, as soon as the party's fundraising can sustain them. In recent months, he says, he was able to add longtime party volunteer Marty Searight to the payroll as a full-time staff member.
"We're gonna bring in some good, smart, young people," Lindley says. "And we're gonna have fun."