Markowitz Appointed Secretary Of Agency Of Natural Resources
12/06/10 5:50PM By John Dillon
(Host) Governor-elect Peter Shumlin has picked Secretary of State Deb Markowitz to run the state Agency of Natural Resources.
As VPR's John Dillon reports, the appointment continues Shumlin's practice of choosing former political rivals to serve in his administration.
(Dillon) As he did with other state agencies, Shumlin made a political pick for the top job, then named another less high profile official who is well-versed in the details.
For the Agency of Natural Resources, Shumlin chose Deb Markowitz, who as secretary of state did not make a mark on environmental issues.
But the governor-elect also picked Vermont Law School Professor David Mears to run the Department of Environmental Conservation. The department handles implementation and enforcement of state environmental programs, and Mears is considered a national expert on natural resource law.
Shumlin said he chose Markowitz for her management skills.
(Shumlin) "Her talent is to transform bureaucracy into a place that delivers customer service. That's what she's done as secretary of state for the last 12 years. That's what she's focused on throughout her career."
(Dillon) Markowitz also spoke about improving "customer service" at the Natural Resources Agency by helping those who need permits.
(Markowitz) "I want to be the secretary who leads the ANR back to being a flagship agency for the state of Vermont. We are proud of our environmental record, and we need to remain proud of that for future generations. And we can, while changing the culture, while also saying, ‘Welcome. How can we help you?' to the people who want to create jobs in Vermont.'"
(Dillon) Shumlin has now named three of his opponents in the hard-fought Democratic primary to positions in his administration. Only former Windsor senator Matt Dunne - an executive with Google - has not found a job with Shumlin. But the governor-elect said he was not deliberately assembling a team of rivals to serve in his cabinet.
(Shumlin) "There are a lot of things you try to balance. But you can't over-think it. The bottom line is you try to find the best person you possibly can in terms of their intellect, their understanding of Vermont and their ability to get tough things done and you hire them. And that's what I've done every single time."
(Dillon) The Agency of Natural Resources has seen substantial turnover at the top. Markowitz will be the fourth secretary in five years. The agency has also been hit hard by budget reductions and staff cuts.
Markowitz said she will work on restoring employee morale. She also said cleanup of Lake Champlain is a top priority. Her appointment drew praise from Chris Kilian, the Vermont head of the Conservation Law Foundation, a frequent critic of the agency.
(Kilian) "I think her focus on the morale of the agency and figuring out ways to implement the mission of the agency more consistently and professionally is the right focus early on."
(Dillon) The Vermont Public Interest Research Group offered more qualified support. VPIRG said Markowitz has a proven record as a public servant, but that she faces a steep learning curve in her new job.
For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.