Moderators are gearing up to facilitate Town Meeting Day gatherings across the state. In Middlebury, longtime town moderator — and former Vermont governor — Jim Douglas is preparing to do it for the last time.
Douglas told VPR that he's not running again because, after more than 30 years on the job, it was time to give somebody else a chance.
Douglas said the biggest change over the course of his tenure is that town meetings can now be streamed online or on local cable channels. While that technology makes keeping up on town issues more convenient, he said, he worries it’s "a disincentive" for people to actually attend the meetings and participate.
Still, said Douglas, he believes “the tradition of direct democracy” is worth preserving.
Douglas said the most memorable town meeting he ever moderated was in 2003, when journalists flocked to see him serve in the role after being elected as the state’s governor.
While Town Meeting Day focuses on local politics, there's already much conversation about next year's presidential election. When asked about President Donald Trump's bid for re-election in 2020, Douglas — who raised concerns about Trump during the 2016 Republican primary — said he’d be "open to credible alternatives."
However, he said, he wouldn't participate in a "quixotic" effort to unseat the president. Despite his concerns about Trump, Douglas said many good things have come out of his presidency, such as a strong economy, low unemployment and deregulation.