Date: April 12, 2011
Source: Burlington Free Press
Former Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner Richard Sedano met Blair Hamilton and his life partner, Beth Sachs, more than 25 years ago as founders of a clean energy organization in Newport. It was called the Memphremagog Group, after the lake that straddles the Vermont-Quebec border.
“I was new to Vermont and was fascinated the word ‘Memphremagog’ even existed, let alone that somebody would call themselves that,” Sedano recalled Monday in the wake of Hamilton’s death Friday, 20 years after Hamilton was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 61.
Hamilton was co-founder with Sachs of Burlington’s Vermont Energy Investment Corp., an energy consultant that today is a $60 million company with nearly 200 employees and that counts businesses and governments around the country and the world as clients on energy issues.
The couple also founded Efficiency Vermont, the state’s energy efficiency “utility” that has made Vermont a leader in finding ways to stretch power further, increasing supply by decreasing demand.
Sedano was an engineer at the state Department of Public Service when he first met Hamilton and Sachs.
“I basically met them as a pair, a lot of people think of them as a pair,” Sedano said. “The would come in and challenge the system to do better by clean energy resources. The fact they were focused on Newport was strange. Most other people weren’t focused on Newport. It indicated a certain quixotic dedication to rural Vermont. So I thought they were pretty interesting from the moment I met them.”
In 1986, Hamilton and Sachs moved to Burlington, or Vermont’s “big time,” Sedano said, to create Vermont Energy Investment Corp.
“I think they were clear about the hard-nosed financial perspective they took to creating the VEIC,” Sedano said. He said both approached policy-makers and decision-makers effectively, “Blair being a little bit more confrontational, and Beth being a little bit more conciliatory. One could simplify it by saying it was a ‘good guy, bad guy’ approach.”
Sandra Levine, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, worked with Hamilton on a range of energy efficiency matters over the past decade.
“What stands out in my mind about Blair is both his commitment and his passion for the work he did and his absolute willingness to sit down with anybody and talk with them about it and teach them about it,” Levine said. “Much of what I know about energy efficiency I learned from Blair. I think that’s true for a whole host of energy advocates and professionals in the field, not only in Vermont, but throughout New England, as well as nationally and internationally.”
Nearly three years ago, Hamilton and Sachs decided to hire an executive director for the organization they founded, stepping back from the day-to-day operations and leaving someone else to deal with what had become a relatively large organization. They picked Scott Johnstone, the former director of public works in Burlington, who also ran the state Agency of Natural Resources for five years. Monday, Johnstone was in Washington, D.C., on business for the Vermont Energy Investment Corp.
“Blair was a visionary, a friend, a genius, and a mentor to all of us,” he said through a company spokesman. “He left an indelible mark on the world, and he’ll be greatly missed.”Tweet