House Committee Approves New Vetting for Adjutant General Candidates | Off Message

House Committee Approves New Vetting for Adjutant General Candidates

by

Col. Greg Knight, adjutant general, testifying this week about efforts to reform the state's singular election process - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Col. Greg Knight, adjutant general, testifying this week about efforts to reform the state's singular election process

Future candidates for Vermont’s top military office would undergo a new vetting process and be elected at a different date under a bill approved Friday by a House committee.

The measure aims to bring some structure and greater accountability to an election process for the state’s adjutant general post, a process candidates and legislators have described as an awkward “free-for-all.” Lawmakers elected Col. Greg Knight adjutant general on February 21.

The bill, unanimously approved by the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, would create a nine-member Adjutant and Inspector General Nominating Board that would review the credentials of candidates for
the position, which oversees the state’s National Guard.

The board would then forward the names of qualified candidates to the rest of the legislature for election or reelection to the post every two years.

The committee considered whether those names should instead be forwarded to the governor for appointment, but the committee chose to retain legislative control over the election process, Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury) said.

“It’s not perfect, but I’m not sure there is a perfect solution,” said Stevens, who chairs the committee.

The vote for adjutant general would also be moved to the second year of the biennium, instead of the first, in order to give new legislators time to get comfortable in their roles before being subjected to multiple candidates campaigning for votes in the Statehouse.

Knight told the committee Tuesday that he felt the process was flawed, in part because it requires military officers to practice “ambush politics” on busy legislators in the Statehouse hallways and cafeteria.

“Your time is very short, and here we all are, the four of us, lying in wait like a stone fish, waiting to ambush you and give you the 10-minute elevator pitch of why we’re the best candidate,” Knight said.

This “willy nilly” campaign process, as Knight called it, would still be allowed to happen under the bill, but it would be limited to four weeks before the February election.

The bill contains a set of qualifications for the candidates, such as requiring them to attain a rank of colonel and be eligible to attend one of the country's war colleges, which are only open to experienced military officers. But it allows for anyone, military or not, to run as a write in-candidate at the last minute, Stevens said.

“You still have to keep that door open,” he said.

The new process would create greater accountability over the adjutant general position by having a panel, similar to the one for judges in the state, that can “drill down” on a candidate’s qualifications, as well as the record of a sitting adjutant general seeking reappointment, Stevens said.