Bill Russell built Vermont’s Legislative Counsel from a one-man office to today’s robust department during his 36 years as its chief.
Russell, who served as NCSL’s staff chair in 1990-91, died Aug. 15 in Santa Fe, N.M., after a 10-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 80.
“Bill was the exemplar of a legislative staffer—someone whose counsel could always be trusted and whose dedication could never be questioned,” NCSL CEO Tim Storey says. “As NCSL staff chair, Bill helped invest in the legislative institution across the nation. His legacy will long be felt not only in his beloved Vermont, but by all of us who aspire to the example he set.”
Russell was a Georgetown Law graduate who moved from Washington, D.C., in 1971 to join the Vermont Legislature, where he served for 36 years. He received a Legislative Staff Achievement Award from NCSL in 1998.
Stephen Klein, the former director of Vermont’s Chief Fiscal Office, told the VTDigger that Russell was a consensus builder at a time when cooperation was in short supply in politics.
“His style was always very, very cooperative. He was always that person who tried to work with people to get them all to buy in—almost to a fault,” Klein says.
For more on Russell’s life and career, read VTDigger political reporter Sarah Mearhoff’s appreciation.
Mark Wolf is a senior editor at NCSL.