Richard Snelling; Returned as Vermont Governor for 5th Term

<i> From Times Staff and Wire Reports</i>

Gov. Richard Snelling, who returned for a fifth term in January with hopes of getting Vermont’s finances in order, was found dead Wednesday.

Snelling was found by the side of his swimming pool at his home in Shelburne, a town on Lake Champlain about 30 miles west of Montpelier, the capital. He was 64.

The Republican, who was in his swimsuit, appeared to have died Tuesday night while cleaning the pool, said William Sorrell, the Chittenden County prosecutor.


The governor’s office said Snelling’s wife, Barbara, was in New York on business at the time of his death. Their four grown children live elsewhere.

Lt. Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat who teaches medicine at the University of Vermont, will immediately assume the office of governor through the remainder of Snelling’s term, which runs through January, 1993.

President Bush, aboard Air Force One on his way from Pittsburgh to Kennebunkport, Me., called Snelling’s death “a real shocker.”

“He was a good man, a good governor. This is a tragic loss. So, I salute him for his service and mourn his death,” Bush said.

Snelling served as governor from 1977 to 1985. He decided not to seek reelection in 1984. Last year, worried about the state’s sagging financial condition, he decided to run again after Democrat Madeleine Kunin decided not to seek reelection.

In November, he easily defeated Democrat Peter Welch and took office in January.

He immediately pushed through the largest tax package in the state’s history, boosting state revenues by $90 million.

Snelling was born in Allentown, Pa., educated at Harvard University and served in the Army from 1945 to 1946. He was the founder and chairman of Shelburne Industries, a ski equipment company.