David Deen
David Deen

WESTMINSTER -- Together, state Reps. David Deen and Mike Mrowicki have logged more than three decades in the state House of Representatives.

They're shooting for a few more years.

Deen and Mrowicki both are seeking re-election this year as Democrats in Windham 4, a two-seat district consisting of Westminster, Putney and Dummerston.

Deen, of Westminster, is Windham County's longest-tenured current legislator and is serving his 12th term in the House. Mrowicki, of Putney, is serving his fourth term. He and Deen have worked closely both in Montpelier and at home in southeastern Vermont.

"I think we've developed a good bond and work well together," Mrowicki said.

Mike Mrowicki
Mike Mrowicki

Deen started his public service in the state Senate: He served one term in the smaller legislative body before losing, he said, in part because of a lobbying campaign against him by the National Rifle Association.

Deen was out of office for two years before gaining a seat in the House, where he is serving his 24th year. He spent one year on a Local Government Committee -- "a committee that no longer even exists," Deen said -- and three years on Ways and Means.

Otherwise, he has been involved with the Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee or the Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Deen currently is chairman of Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources, and he is an acknowledged expert in that field among lawmakers.


Advertisement

Away from his work as a legislator, Deen also serves as a longtime river steward for Connecticut River Watershed Council.

"Nobody is going to come into my committee and mislead me in terms of the science of water or the legal and regulatory background," Deen said.

He added that this is a "watershed time in terms of water issues."

"The driving force is the cleanup plan for Lake Champlain," Deen said. "The last time we had an opportunity like this to move forward with clean water (issues) was the response to Irene."

On the water-quality front, Deen cited two recent steps forward: The Legislature this year banned throwing trash in the state's waters and also approved a bill that protects lake-shore lands by limiting development and preserving vegetation.

Protecting waterways is a work in progress. In the last 40 years, Deen said, river science "has gone from zero to 100 miles per hour in terms of the knowledge that we have about rivers and adjusting our law to reflect what we've learned."

He also noted that, while Vermont's waterways are much cleaner than they once were, more work is needed.

"Now we're down to indirect (pollution) -- those are the major sources," Deen said. "It's runoff from our buildings, our parking lots, our roads, our farms -- even some logging operations. And there is a new willingness ... for people to be responsible for their part of the remaining problems. And that's also exciting to be part of that."

While Deen's expertise is in the fish, wildlife and water areas, his legislative work also includes service on the House Rules Committee, which can make recommendations on how the House of Representatives should be go about its business.

For instance, Deen said the Rules Committee recommended -- and the House adopted -- a new mission for the House Transportation Committee this year.

"We changed their job description -- they now have the added responsibility to look at the effects of decisions relative to the carbon footprint of the transportation sector," Deen said. "So it broadens out their perspective."

Deen also was involved with the decision to form a new ethics panel to explore potential conflicts of interest among House members.

As a member of the House Human Services Committee, Mrowicki is involved with a host of issues. He says the state Human Services Agency is "the largest agency with the largest budget -- everything from child care to corrections, really."

He counts among his priorities early education and child care, saying those "are probably some of the best investments we can make in the future of Vermont."

Mrowicki added that "I've always been concerned about providing a voice for those without, most especially the disabled and the elderly -- people who literally depend on the kindness of their fellow Vermonters to stay alive."

Mrowicki is interested in a long list of other issues including combating prescription-drug abuse and the use of illegal drugs; enhancing the state's mental-health system; reforming the state's health-care system; mandating background checks for all gun sales; and addressing harmful emissions that contribute to global warming.

"Whatever we can do to get more cars off the road, we'll reduce our carbon footprint," Mrowicki said. "The next steps are not going to be easy, because we're really asking people to change their habits."

In the same vein, weatherization also must be a priority, Mrowicki said.

"We need to identify a viable funding source to take that next step and facilitate a lot more tightening up of homes than we're doing now," Mrowicki said.

He also wants to quicken the state's expansion of high-speed Internet service, noting that some residents of his hometown do not yet have broadband access.

"We're making good progress, but we're going to keep pushing," Mrowicki said. "There are these pockets (of unserved areas). And Putney's one of them. Windham County has an unusually high number of underserved addresses."

Deen and Mrowicki maintain a joint legislative website at www.windham4.net.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.