FERRISBURGH — If voters in the five towns of the Addison-3 district value persistence, maybe this could be the year for Ferrisburgh Democrat Liz Markowski.
Markowski, 61, a businesswoman who played a key role in the late-1990s revitalization of downtown Vergennes, has put her name before voters three times in seeking one of Addison-3’s two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives — in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
And a decade ago, when Tom McGrath stepped down from his House seat mid-term, Markowski also submitted her name to then-governor Howard Dean hoping for an appointment that eventually went to Waltham’s Tim Ryan.
Now, Markowski will be back on the ballot in November in a four-way race for two seats with incumbents Greg Clark (R-Vergennes) and Diane Lanpher (D-Vergennes) and one challenger, former GOP representative Kitty Oxholm.
Markowski essentially made the choice to run this past winter, when she and her 11-year-old adopted son Jake were cleaning out the basement of their Monkton Road home. They came across her stash of lawn signs.
“He said, ‘Are you going to get rid of these?’ and I said, ‘Not just yet. I may run one more time,’” she said.
Markowski said she still feels strongly about the issues — she favors universal single-payer health care, not only because it would be more efficient in meeting medical needs, but also because its cost-savings could help citizens and businesses; closing the Vermont Yankee plant because she said the plant is aging and its operator cannot be trusted; investing in renewable energy; and supporting “smart-growth” initiatives.
And she pledged to keep an open mind.
“I’m very interested in what is going on in Vermont, in our community and our nation. I read, I listen to talk radio, I listen to what people’s views are,” she said. “I’m not closed because I’m running on the Democratic ticket. I’m not a party person. I never have been. I’m open to all ideas, and then can make a decision after hearing it all. I would never vote the party line because the party says you need to vote this way.”
She also believes her background has prepared her for office. Markowski, a New York native, has lived in the area for 35 years and in Ferrisburgh for 26 years after coming to the state with her husband Peter, a Vermont native.
She worked as an operating room nurse in Burlington and as a Ferrisburgh Central School nurse before co-founding Vergennes shop Homeworks in 1990. Later that she opened EveryWear for EveryBody on Main Street in the late 1990s, and more recently co-founded the nonprofit Sweet Charity, also on Main Street.
That venture — which she has helped operate on behalf of Women of Wisdom, a 14-member charitable giving circle that focuses on family issues in the five-town area — has raised $10,000 in its three years for Hospice Volunteer Services of Addison County and other causes.
Markowski has served or is serving on many local nonprofit boards, including Porter Hospital, the Vergennes Partnership, Hospice Volunteer Services, Addison County Court Diversion Program, and Addison County Home Health Care. In the 1990s, Markowski was co-president of the Vergennes Area Chamber of Commerce, which helped spark the city’s revitalization.
Yet another reason for giving it another shot is that Markowski believes the playing field may be more level this time around.
In 2002, Markowski was in a three-person field with Clark and incumbent Republican Connie Houston. She believes many Democratic voters “cancelled out” their votes for her by also voting for one of the Republican candidates.
In 2004, she and her former Homeworks partner Patty Paul ran together, but were facing two incumbents. In 2006, Markowski believed she had a better shot with Paul against Clark and Oxholm, but Markowski believes Progressive April Jin siphoned off Democratic votes.
This time, Markowski said she has a better chance, and she wants to support Lanpher.
“I think the stars are aligned. (And) I think Diane is an amazing legislator,” she said. “So part of my strategy was to make sure she has a running mate, because I know how important that is.”
ON THE ISSUES
Markowski also explained her positions on the issues. Ultimately, she said, the United States should follow the lead of the rest of the industrialized world and consider a federal single-payer health care system.
She said many citizens are already covered by the government: state and federal employees, military personnel, politicians, and Medicare and Medicaid recipients.
“The only people who don’t have universal health care are people who choose not to buy it and those of us that have it privately,” she said.
The high cost of providing healthcare to employees makes it more difficult for U.S. companies to compete, from small firms like her husband’s car restoration business to large car manufacturers, she said, while the cost of providing health care to public employees like teachers adds to property taxes.
Employers could also pay higher wages without the burden of health insurance benefits, while doctors and hospitals have to hire more help to track insurance claims.
“The car industry is a clear example ... They’re moving to Canada because Canada has national health care,” Markowski said. “If we can get health care under control, and not be in the pockets of insurance companies and ... the pharmaceutical industry, we could get a lot of our spending under control.”
Health care reform and consolidation could help control school costs, she said.
“I think that consolidation is a step. But I also think that taking health care out of the schools, off the tax base, would reduce property taxes,” Markowski said.
She said a nuclear plant, possibly using a breeder reactor like those employed in France could exist in Vermont with “the right management,” but Vermont Yankee and its Louisiana owner, Entergy, should go.
“Number one, it’s an old plant. It was only designed to work until 2012. It has proven that it needs major work to keep it functioning,” Markowski said. “I am appalled with the management ... Their bottom line is to make money for their stockholders, not to keep Vermont safe.”
In the long term, renewable energy could replace some of what Vermont Yankee supplies, because investment now will pay dividends, Markowski said.
“It’s not going to change our costs tomorrow, but we’ve got to get started,” Markowski said. “Look at the difference between Henry Ford’s cars to now. Telephones when we were growing up, to now when we can put them in our pocket. Computers. When I was in college, a computer was an entire three-story building ... Now, computers are in our phones.”
Finally, Markowski emphasized her ties to Ferrisburgh, Addison, Panton, Vergennes and Waltham.
“I love Vermont, and I love these five towns. This is where I live. This is where we’ve lived for 35 years,” Markowski said. “And I don’t want to live anywhere else.”
Reporter Andy Kirkaldy is at email@example.com.