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Vt. Gov.-elect Shumlin fills 2 environmental jobs

By Dave Gram
Associated Press / December 6, 2010

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MONTPELIER, Vt.—Gov.-elect Peter Shumlin filled the two highest-profile environmental positions in his incoming administration on Monday, choosing outgoing Secretary of State Deb Markowitz to head the Agency of Natural Resources and a law school professor to head the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Markowitz, 49, became the third of Shumlin's four Democratic primary rivals to be appointed to a top administrative post. She will take over the $109,000-per-year job when Shumlin takes office in January.

She and Shumlin acknowledged that she doesn't have much experience with environmental matters, but he said he wanted her management skills to turn around an agency marked in recent years by low morale and turnover in top positions.

Shumlin said he also appreciated Markowitz's work to make licensing, corporate filing and similar functions of the secretary of state's office simpler.

He said he was also impressed with Markowitz's message during the primary campaign that "it is a false choice for Vermont to have to choose between jobs and protecting our natural resources. She understands that we must do both, that they're not mutually exclusive, in fact, that they're extraordinarily compatible."

Markowitz echoed the need for balance.

"We are proud of our environmental record, our environmental reputation, and we need to remain proud of that for our future generations," she said. "And we can do that while also saying, 'Welcome, how can we help you?' to the people who want to create jobs in Vermont."

The agency, with more than 600 employees and an annual budget of more than $80 million, includes the departments of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Wildlife, and Forests, Parks and Recreation.

Vermont Law School Professor David Mears, 46, will head up the first of those three, reporting to Markowitz; the other two commissioners have yet to be appointed.

Mears, whose new job will pay about $85,000 per year, has focused on environmental law throughout his career. He has a degree from Cornell in environmental engineering technology and from Vermont Law School in environmental law and policy. He has worked in environmental law and policy jobs for the states of Texas and Washington and in the U.S. Justice Department.

In accepting the Vermont position, Mears will have to cut short a Fulbright scholarship and return from Guangzhou, China. He participated in Monday's news conference through the Internet communications service Skype.