Finance Commissioner Jim Reardon delivers a briefing on Gov. Peter Shumlin's budget proposal in January 2015.
There comes a time near the end of every legislative session when all eyes turn to Jim Reardon.
As Vermont's commissioner of finance and management, Reardon's the one who must ultimately balance the state budget. His is hardly a household name, but after more than a decade in the job, he knows better than most where the money is — and where it's not. Inevitably, as the governor and legislators haggle over the last million dollars' worth of budgetary disagreements, Reardon finds the cash under a couch.
Now, he's leaving.
Gov. Peter Shumlin announced Tuesday that Reardon will retire at the end of the month after nearly 30 years in state government. Replacing him will be Commissioner of Corrections Andy Pallito.
"I'm ready to do something else," the 57-year-old Essex Junction resident says.
What that is, Reardon says, he doesn't know. He's been in state government since March 1986, working his way up from staff auditor at the Agency of Human Services to deputy commissioner of finance in 2003 and then commissioner in 2005. He was one of the few department chiefs Shumlin retained when he took over from Republican predecessor Jim Douglas. Pallito was another.
Though the state will lose his institutional knowledge, Reardon says he's confident in the team he's put in place at the Department of Finance and Management — and in Pallito, with whom he worked closely at AHS in the 1990s. Pallito himself has spent more than 20 years in state government and has led the Department of Corrections since 2008.
"Having worked with him, knowing what he's capable of doing, knowing that he has the managerial skills that come with being a commissioner and the fact that he has a financial background, I think it positions him very well to replace me at Finance and Management," Reardon says.
Reardon is taking advantage of a retirement incentive the administration proposed last spring to shrink the state workforce, but he says that was "not a motivating factor." He adds that he made clear to his colleagues and legislators when the incentive was being crafted that he would be eligible for it — and recused himself from decisions related to it.
Pallito says his experience in accounting — and in managing the DOC's growing $159 million budget — will help him fill Reardon's shoes.
"I think I can help with some of the stuff that's coming up with the budget because I've run a program that has seen budgetary pressures," he says. "The DOC has long been a budget discussion in state government, so I have that experience. So now I can go up to the fifth floor and help make some of those difficult decisions. I'm excited to do it."
Pallito's tenure at DOC hasn't been without controversy. In June, he became the first state prison chief in the country to publicly call for the decriminalization of all drugs, as Seven Days' Mark Davis first reported.
Replacing Pallito at DOC will be his deputy commissioner, Lisa Menard, who has served in that role since 2008.
Shumlin also announced Tuesday that Department of Housing and Community Development Commissioner Jenn Hollar was leaving state government to lead the nonprofit Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The governor has not named a successor.
The Shumlin administration has faced a raft of departures in recent months. Just last week, Shumlin's transportation secretary, Sue Minter, announced she was leaving to run for governor. Shumlin announced in June he would not seek a fourth term.