Longtime Vermont Senator Richard 'Dick' Mazza Dies | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Longtime Vermont Senator Richard 'Dick' Mazza Dies


Published May 27, 2024 at 12:33 p.m.

Richard "Dick" Mazza - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Richard "Dick" Mazza

Richard "Dick" Mazza, a Colchester grocer who became one of the longest serving and most influential members of the Vermont Senate, died on Saturday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 84.

Mazza died with his family by his side at the McClure Miller Respite House, where he had spent the last several weeks after retiring from the Senate in April.

The Colchester community “sadly lost a pillar” with his passing, his family said in his obituary.

After two terms in the House of Representatives, Mazza spent 39 years representing the residents of the Grand Isle district, the second-longest tenure in state history. The district covered the Champlain Islands and Colchester.

During that time, the genial grocer became beloved by constituents for looking out for their best interests, respected by his colleagues for his warmth and good humor, and a close confidant to Gov. Phil Scott.

“I am heartbroken at the loss of my very dear friend, mentor and long-time colleague, Senator Dick Mazza,” Scott said in a statement “He left a mark on everyone he met, so I know this loss will be felt across the islands and the state.”
Richard "Dick" Mazza - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Richard "Dick" Mazza

Scott, a moderate Republican, hailed Mazza, a conservative Democrat, as the rare politician who was able to transcend the divisions and rancor of party politics.

“In a world that has become so politically divided and full of hate, Dick Mazza stood out like a shining star – an icon of decency, hope and humor," Scott said. “His impact will be felt for generations to come, and he will be greatly missed.”

Scott ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Mazza's funeral, scheduled for May 30.

"He was the owner of Dick Mazza’s General Store, starting alongside his father 70 years ago this month and proudly operating the store since," his family wrote in his obituary. "It is only fitting that Dick passed away on the sixth anniversary of Gov. Phil Scott’s 2019 proclamation deeming May 25, 2019, 'Dick Mazza’s General Store Day.'"

Statements honoring Mazza poured in from lawmakers. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden-Central), said Mazza’s passing was “a loss to everyone who knew him.”

“We in the Vermont Senate will remember him as our elder statesman, always collected, always compassionate, always generous with the fruits of his own hard labor,” Baruth said, noting that the Senate passed a resolution honoring his service.

U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.), who previously served as Senate president pro tem, said Mazza was a friend and mentor to her.

“I will really miss sitting in his office at the store catching up on all the news and making each other laugh,” she wrote. “There’ll never be another one like him.”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that Mazza, during his decades of service, 
"brought integrity, fairness, and common sense to the Statehouse, and kept the needs of the everyday Vermonters he represented front and center."

State Treasurer Mike Pieciak said he would “sorely miss his sense of humor, wisdom and integrity.”

The tributes extended well beyond Montpelier. The Town of Colchester recently renamed the road to its new recreation center “Dick Mazza Drive.”

Mazza wielded significant influence in the Senate as a key member of the committee that assigns the chairs of each committee, a power that directly influences the issues that get traction each legislative session.

Mazza also maintained close relationships with several governors, providing an essential bridge between the legislative and executive branches.

Seven Days reporter Andy Bromage explored Mazza's deep political influence in a 2011 cover story titled "The Adviser," featuring an illustration of Mazza as the Godfather.

“There’s a popular misconception that Vermont is run out of the fifth-floor governor’s office in Montpelier,” now-U.S. Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said at the time, “when in reality, it’s run out of the deli section of Mazza’s store.”
The January 26, 2011, cover - SEVEN DAYS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
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  • The January 26, 2011, cover
Earlier this month, Scott named Andy Julow, a North Hero economic development official, to succeed Mazza. The seat, and every other in the legislature, is up for election this November.

Mazza is survived by his wife of 58 years, Dolly; an older brother, John Sr.; two children; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"To honor Dick’s memory, please treat everyone with compassion and be of service to others and grateful for the day’s blessings," the family wrote in his obituary.

Correction, May 27, 2024: A previous version of this story misstated the length of Julow's appointment.

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