NEWFANE -- State Rep. Dick Marek, who has represented three Windham County towns for a dozen years, will not run for re-election this year.
Marek, D-Newfane, announced his decision on the same day that Emily Long, chairwoman of Leland & Gray School Board, announced that she would seek Marek's Windham District 5 House seat.
Marek endorsed Long while also reflecting on his legislative career, which has included long-term service on the House Judiciary Committee. His district consists of Marlboro, Newfane and Townshend.
"Discovering last summer that I now have served longer than anyone else in the history of my town or this district, as well as realizing that first graders when I first ran now may be entering college, certainly helped in my decision," Marek said.
"The opportunity to represent people in making complex decisions which will significantly affect their lives is one of the greatest gifts of trust the voters can give someone," Marek added. "I'm truly grateful for that and have tried to honor it in my work, even though I couldn't always agree with every constituent on every issue."
Marek was elected in 2002 and said he is the third-longest-serving current House member from Windham County. Reps. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham, and David Deen, D-Westminster, have served longer.
On Tuesday, Marek said he had been considering leaving the Legislature for years.
"I've actually contemplated it for the last several terms. Each election, you think about it," Marek said. "But there usually was a major pending issue in the Judiciary Committee that I wanted to be on board for."
He noted that, as a member of that committee, he has "worked on many significant and often controversial policy issues impacting Vermont." Those include modifying Act 250 land-use reviews; approving marriage-equality legislation; banning text-messaging and the use of hand-held cell phones while driving; enacting a labeling mandate for genetically modified foods; working to reduce prison populations; and combating opiate addiction.
Marek also has served as a member and chairman of the state's Judicial Nominating Board, which screens candidates for Vermont's judgeships and Public Service Board vacancies.
Additionally, Marek currently is vice chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules. That body meets all year and "serves as the final legislative check to ensure that all proposed agency and departmental rules from the executive branch are consistent with statutory intent, have had proper public input and are not arbitrary," Marek said.
Marek said he plans to stay involved with various civic organizations. He serves as vice president of Vermont Historical Society and Windham County Historical Society. He also is a Newfane Village trustee and serves as a justice of the peace.
But he said that, as far back as last summer, he had "pretty much decided" that the 2014 legislative session would be his last as a Windham County lawmaker.
"The Vermont House has been a self-renewing body ever since it first met in 1778. It's been a privilege to play a small part in that long history before now making way for another to serve there," Marek said.
He is hoping his successor will be Long, who is running as a Democrat. Marek said he is "delighted that Emily has decided to run, and I couldn't be more enthusiastic about endorsing her election."
"I can't think of anyone who could more thoughtfully represent this district and its strong values in the House," Marek said in a statement accompanying Long's candidacy announcement. "Emily already has shown a rare dedication to serving our community over many years in so many different roles."
Those roles have included Long's service on the Leland & Gray board; she has been an elected director of the regional junior and senior high school in Townshend for 14 years and has been the board's chairwoman since 2006.
Long also holds several other educational-leadership positions: She is chairwoman of Windham Central Supervisory Union's board, president of the Vermont School Boards Association and a board member for Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust.
As state policy makers discuss the future of Vermont's educational system -- the Legislature this year debated but did not approve a measure that would have consolidated many local school boards -- Long said she would take to Montpelier "a lot of background and knowledge about how schools work."
"I think there are a lot of issues around education. It isn't only about governance. It's about funding. It's about opportunity," she said. "I care very much about public education and specifically about opportunities for our kids."
Long has strong connections to the Windham 5 District: She was born in Townshend, raised on a Newfane farm and, after nine years in the Northeast Kingdom, moved back to Newfane where she and her husband operate a fine-art business.
"I made the choice to reside here because I believe this is a wonderful area to live and raise a family," Long said. "If elected, I am eager to apply my skills in order to expand Vermont's economy and grow jobs, protect our environment, support sustainable energy and provide affordable health care for all Vermonters."
In addition to Marek's backing, Long's candidacy also attracted endorsements from Steven John, Windham Central Supervisory Union superintendent, and Stephan Morse, a Newfane resident who is a former speaker of the Vermont House and current chairman of the state Board of Education.
"Emily Long would be a great person to represent Windham 5. Her proven leadership skills would represent the area very well," Morse said in a prepared statement.
John, who also is Marlboro's moderator, said Long's "approach to any problem is to research first, ask questions, listen to all opinions and then advocate for the solutions that best serve the public good."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.