Anne Watson and Mike Rice presented with 2024 Environmental Rising Star Awards

VCV photo of, from left, Justin Marsh, Anne Watson, Mike Rice and Lauren Hierl in front of the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

VCV photo of, from left, Justin Marsh, Anne Watson, Mike Rice and Lauren Hierl in front of the Vermont State House in Montpelier.

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) presented this year’s VCV Environmental Rising Star Awards to Senator Anne Watson (D/P-Washington) and Representative Mike Rice (D-Dorset). The VCV Environmental Rising Star Award is presented bi-annually to first-term legislators who have stepped up to be effective champions of VCV priority issues in their first legislative session, and who have a bright future of environmental leadership. 

“Senator Watson has the proven ability to put forward creative ideas, then roll up her sleeves to develop the policy details and work to bring stakeholders and colleagues along with her,” said Lauren Hierl, executive director, Vermont Conservation Voters, who presented Watson with the award at a recent event. “Many of our most successful legislative leaders are those who have passion, expertise, and the ability to collaborate well with others, and Senator Watson has these skills in spades. We're excited to see what she is able to accomplish for Vermont.” 

Watson was elected to the Vermont Senate in 2022, representing the Washington District. She is vice chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and also sits on the Senate Committee on Government Operations. She is a member of the Renewable Energy Standard Working Group. 

During her first year in the Vermont Senate, Watson sponsored several of VCV’s priority policies including the Affordable Heat Act (S.5), a bill to prohibit PFAS and other “forever” chemicals from cosmetics, menstrual products, textiles, and turf (S.25), a bill to advance ranked choice voting (S.32), and a bill for state pensions to divest from the fossil fuel industry (S.42). 

“She jumped in right away to learn the intricate policy details to help educate her fellow committee members, legislators, and constituents of complex policies, especially around S.5, the Affordable Heat Act,” added Hierl. “This year she is the lead sponsor of the climate superfund bill, known as Make Big Oil Pay, which would hold the largest polluters accountable for the damage brought on by climate change.” 

Outside of her legislative role, she has been a science and math teacher in Vermont since 2004. She served in the Montpelier City Council for six years and was the Mayor of Montpelier from 2018 until being elected to the Senate. As mayor she led Montpelier to make significant progress toward its net zero carbon pollution commitment, taking action by initiating a city-wide home energy disclosure policy, the first of its kind in Vermont. She now resides in Barre with her partner and child. 

“So thankful and grateful for this recognition and it’s delightful to be honored for the work that we’ve done so far,” said Senator Anne Watson. “But it can’t be separated from the work that we have ahead of us and all the important steps that we have yet to take in terms of a sustainable future.” 

“Similar to Senator Watson, Representative Mike Rice rose as an instrumental player in our effort to pass critical climate policies such as the Affordable Heat Act, educating his fellow legislators and effectively communicating with his constituents,” said Justin Marsh, political director, Vermont Conservation Voters, who presented Rice with the award at a recent event. “His commitment to protecting our farmland, forests, and biodiversity and strengthening Vermont’s value to the world is certainly worth celebrating.” 

Rice was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives in 2022, representing the Bennington-Rutland district towns of Dorset, Danby, Peru, Mount Tabor, and Landgrove. He sits on the House Committee on Agriculture, Food Resiliency, and Forestry and serves on the leadership team of the Climate Solutions Caucus. He is also a member of the Rural Caucus, Social Equity Caucus, and the Working Vermonters Caucus. 

He has sponsored numerous VCV priority policies including the 30x30 biodiversity land conservation act (H.126), and a bill that would ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (H.706). He resides in Dorset with his partner. 

“Whether it’s mitigating the impact of flooding and other climate change related disasters, solving our housing crisis while maintaining strong protections for our forests and farmland, encouraging ecologically beneficial farm practices that help feed our communities, or decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels while holding the industry accountable, I believe Vermont can lead the way,” said Representative Mike Rice. “I’m proud to play a part in this work on behalf of my community and our state.” 

“Thank you to Senator Watson and Representative Rice for your leadership, and we look forward to continuing to work with you this year and in the years to come on policies that will create a healthier, more equitable, and more resilient Vermont,” added Lauren Hierl.

Source: 2.20.2024. Vermont Conservation Voters 
Vermont Business Magazine