When Vermont’s political press corps files into the Statehouse Wednesday for the start of the legislative session, it will be missing one of its most veteran, talented and beloved scribes.
Associated Press reporter Dave Gram quietly left the newswire’s Montpelier bureau Monday after more than 31 years on the job.
“I’m just feeling very grateful for the career I’ve been allowed to have,” the 60-year-old Montpelier resident said in a brief interview that afternoon. “Grateful especially to the people of the state of Vermont, which is a pretty unique place — and which I think can offer some real value to a country figuring out how to get back to its democratic roots.”
He paused. “And it’s been a lot of fun.”
Gram declined to comment on the circumstances of his departure, but AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton confirmed Monday that he had been laid off. The move was part of a companywide round of layoffs first announced last month. The AP’s Montpelier bureau will now include just two reporters: Wilson Ring and Lisa Rathke.
Gram joined the AP in 1985, the same year John Dillon — now news director for Vermont Public Radio — took a job with rival newswire United Press International.
“We competed and then we became friends. I think he’s an amazing reporter,” Dillon said. “Dave was always on it. When news broke, he was, like, crazy.”
With his Santa Claus beard, distinctive fedora and irrepressible puns, Gram certainly stood out in the Statehouse press corps.
“It’s gotta be said that he made going to gubernatorial news conferences interesting beyond the governor at the podium,” Dillon said, referring to the quirky and offbeat questions Gram was known for posing. “Once in a blue moon something would come out of his mouth that would silence everybody.”
At one such press conference, as Gov. Peter Shumlin defended his use of the term “nothing-burger” to describe the Vermont Health Connect insurance exchange, Gram asked, “Governor, what kind of condiments go on a something-burger?”
Gram wasn’t just a jokester. Throughout his time at the AP, he specialized in covering opaque state regulatory authorities — often in the energy and telecommunications realms — breaking stories and making them accessible to readers.
“Dave is smart enough to understand real intricate policy details. And once he understands it, no politician or policymaker is going to be able to sell him anything but the truth,” said National Life spokesman and former journalist Ross Sneyd, who worked with Gram in the Montpelier bureau from 1991 to 2007.
“Dave really held all of Vermont’s elected leaders and appointed leaders to a very high standard,” Sneyd continued. “They knew if Dave Gram called, they better have their facts straight.”
In Monday’s interview, Gram wouldn’t say what he planned to do next. But in a note he shared on Facebook last month, he did not sound as if he was ready to put down the pen.
“Keep fighting for the truth and keep telling it well,” he wrote.