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Rep. Willem Jewett picked as House majority leader

MIDDLEBURY — Rep. Willem Jewett, D-Ripton, will have an even higher leadership profile in the Vermont House of Representatives during the next two years. The five-term incumbent lawmaker representing Addison-2 was unanimously elected by his fellow Democrats at their Dec. 8 caucus to serve as House majority leader when the Legislature reconvenes this January.
Jewett, 49, takes over from former House Majority Leader Lucy Leriche of Hardwick, who did not run for re-election. Jewett served the last two years as House majority whip.
A lawyer in Middlebury, Jewett is a veteran of the House Judiciary Committee. He served the last biennium on the House Government Operations Committee while simultaneously performing his duties as whip.
“I have been honored and privileged to serve to residents of Cornwall, Ripton, Salisbury, Leicester, Goshen and Hancock for the past 10 years,” Jewett said. “It is a further honor and privilege to serve the 96 members of the House Democratic Caucus; a group I refer to as the Best Caucus in America.”
Jewett — who won re-election on Nov. 6 by a  1,400-882 tally over independent challenger Tim Ryan of Salisbury — has cited as priorities for the upcoming session the continued implementation of health care reforms; completing the state’s recovery from the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene; fighting substance abuse and drug-related crime; and updating the state’s search-and-rescue policy pertaining to hikers who get lost or stranded in Vermont’s wilderness.
“We face significant challenges; some old, some new,” Jewett said. “We will face those challenges head-on and find solutions. The work will be difficult, but we will complete it. Exactly what we do is perhaps less important than how we do it.
“In my five terms I have come to understand and respect the unique brand of politics that we practice here in Vermont,” he added. “We do our work openly. We respect and incorporate a broad range of ideas. We face our problems squarely. We finish the work. When the dust settles, we are all friends. I think this is a result of how closely we are connected to the good folks who elected us.”
In other elections on Saturday, the state’s Democrat Caucus picked:
•  Rep. Tess Taylor of Barre over Rep. Rebecca Ellis of Waterbury, 49-37, to serve as assistant majority leader.
•  Ellis to serve as clerk of the caucus.
•  Rep. Kate Webb of Shelburne as deputy assistant leader.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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