Doyle reflects on senate career


Bill Doyle

After 42 years of service in the Vermont State Senate, Professor William T. Doyle is no longer a senator.

Since 1974, Doyle has been balancing the duties of being a senator and a professor at Johnson State College. But on Nov. 8, the 90-year-old Republican lost his seat.

“It was a disappointment, but it was a point of gratitude on my part that I had the opportunity to represent an outstanding county and be involved with all of the issues that I was involved in,” said Doyle.

One of Doyle’s best memories of his time in the senate is when he introduced a bill for an open primary. This bill was his way of increasing the population’s participation in their government.

“I introduced a bill for an open primary, and the open primary meant that everybody votes and wouldn’t have to give their political affiliation,” said Doyle, “because I thought that was a deterrent to voting. And, in recent years, participation in the primaries has been huge, because we’ve had interesting elections produce big primaries. So much so that the rooms for those caucuses couldn’t even hold them.”

Another one of his highlights from his senatorial career was his town meeting survey, which he says averages between 13,000 and 15,000 participants.

“I’ve gotten an awful lot of good replies,” said Doyle. “The media carry them on radio and on television . . . I would say the essence of participation was achieved.”

Aside from polling how citizens felt on certain issues, the surveys also function as a teaching aid. Doyle, who teaches in the humanities department at JSC, often brings guests for the benefit of the class.

“Participating in the surveys made a difference in my life,” said Doyle. “And it certainly helped my teaching skill, because it got me to meet people I wouldn’t have known to invite into the class.”

Even though Doyle will no longer be a senator, his teaching career will continue. Over the years, the two positions have helped to strengthen the other.

Out of all of the classes he has taught at Johnson over his 50-year career, his favorite is a two-week course taught during winter break. In the class, students are asked to find a legislator of their choice to shadow, and cover the legislative process.

As for his thoughts on the most recent bout of elections, Doyle had this to say: “I was not happy at all with the discourse of the campaign. Both major candidates went over the line. And I said to myself, ‘That kind of discussion and disrespect for the people; that’s not going to resonate very well with Vermonters.”’

Despite his disappointment with the presidential election, Doyle nevertheless remains optimistic about the future of Vermont politics.

“I’m very optimistic about the election of Phil Scott as governor,” said Doyle. “I think Vermont legislation is some of the best in the nation. One word that I would use is that people in Vermont are very respectful. And that became very apparent to me when I listened to the dialogue in the presidential campaign. The difference between Vermonters, and how they talk in general, and how some presidential candidates talk is just so different. And that just stood out.”