Former US Senator James M. Jeffords of Vermont, who served more than 30 years in Washington, leaves behind a legacy dedicated to the issues of education, the environment and agriculture, and for tipping control of the Senate in 2001 when he quit the Republican Party to become an independent.

University of Vermont Political Science Professors Eileen Burgin followed Jeffords for the majority of his tenure in the Senate and made the following comments on his recent passing at the age of 80:

“Jim Jeffords was not afraid to make tough choices that he believed were right,” said Burgin, who uses Jeffords' book My Declaration of Independence in her Congressional Process class. "Leaving the Republican party in 2001 to become an Independent, and thereby switching control of the Senate from Republicans to Democrats (as Jeffords caucused with the Democrats), was a courageous move. But Jeffords believed that the Republicans were not following through with promises made, and that to best represent the people of Vermont he had to stand apart from the direction that the national Republican party was moving. Jeffords understood that there would be inevitable fallout from this action, both professionally and personally, yet this did not stop him.

Jim Jeffords managed the dual roles of a member of Congress – serving as both a representative of his constituents and a national lawmaker – exceedingly well, not as easy feat at all. He was accessible to the people of Vermont, and his office was open to all constituents. And he also was an effective legislator, respected by his peers."