MONTPELIER -- State Rep. Margaret Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the House panel that handles energy issues, was appointed Monday by Gov. Peter Shumlin to the board that regulates Vermont’s electric and telecommunications industries.
The Norwich Democrat will resign from the Legislature and replace David Coen on the three-member Public Service board. Coen is retiring after 18 years.
Cheney, 61, who is married to Vermont’s lone congressman, Rep. Peter Welch, will join Chairman Jim Volz and John Burke on the panel that also oversees cable television, gas and water service in Vermont.
Cheney is in her fourth two-year term in the Vermont House and has served throughout her tenure on the House Natural Resources Committee.
In the House, Cheney has been a strong advocate for pushing Vermont toward greater use of renewable energy and has had a reputation as a thoughtful and studious lawmaker.
Cheney said she was eager to focus on the complex economic and environmental issues with which the board frequently grapples.
The board has come under some criticism recently -- particularly from opponents to large-scale wind power development in Vermont -- that it is not a welcoming forum for average Vermonters and for citizens’ groups that have sprung up in response to some wind and other energy development projects.
"I have heard these concerns," Cheney said. "As I go into this job I think whatever the situation I would hope to be in a listening frame of mind, whatever the project is."
Cheney said she applied for the job when it was posted in late winter. Applicants express their interest to the governor’s office, which then forwards names for vetting by the Judicial Nominating Board, which in turn sends back to the governor a shorter list of names it has deemed qualified.
"Margaret brings a critical combination of expertise in policy and public engagement," Shumlin said in making the appointment. "Her track record as a former journalist, school board chair, teacher, legislator, and vice-chair of a key energy committee is impressive," he added.
The House Natural Resources Committee chairman, Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, called Cheney’s departure "a huge loss for the Legislature, for my committee and for me personally."
"At the same time, the state of Vermont gains somebody with great insight" on the board, he added.
Cheney begins a six-year term Oct. 1. The job pays $86,000 a year.