Former State Senator Dick Mazza has died

Governor Scott made a point of going to Dick Mazza, left, to announce he was running for a fifth term as governor on May 11, 2024.

Incredible lifetime legacy left behind

by Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First, Vermont Business Magazine 

Former longtime State Sen. Richard T. Mazza, D-Colchester/Grand Isle, who resigned last month due to health issues, died at the McClure Miller Respite House in Colchester on Saturday. 

Mazza built a lifelong reputation for honesty, kindness, ethics, humor and philanthropy – often behind the scenes and unknown to many. 

There are no visiting hours. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Thursday at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Malletts Bay. A celebration of life will be held immediately after at the Miller Building at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. 

The family requests all flowers be omitted due to serious allergies by family members. Memorial contributions on behalf of the senator may be made to Colchester Rescue, 687 Blakely Road, Colchester, VT 05446, or to the McClure Miller Respite House via the Jiggety Jog team ‘Legacy of Love’ fundraiser at

“I am heartbroken at the loss of my very dear friend, mentor and long-time colleague, Senator Dick Mazza," Gov. Phil Scott said Sunday.

“My thoughts go out to Dolly, Mike, Melissa and the entire Mazza family, as well as his ‘family’ at the store and in the Senate. He left a mark on everyone he met, so I know this loss will be felt across the islands and the state," Scott said. 

“A lot has been said of his legacy, and his unmatched public service. He earned and deserved every word and every bit of credit for all he’s done for Vermont," the Governor noted. 

“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. His impact will be felt for generations to come, and he will be greatly missed," Scott said

He said in honor of Mazza, he is ordering all flags in Vermont to be flown at half-staff on Thursday – the day of his funeral.

Mazza's 39 years representing his hometown of Colchester and Grand Isle County in the Vermont Senate is the second longest term served by a senator in state history.

He had earlier served four years representing Colchester in the House – succeeding his father, Joe.

Mazza, 84, had hoped to finish the final year of his senate term, but his pancreatic cancer took its toll, and he resigned April 8. Mazza said he wanted to ensure the Grand Isle/Colchester Senate District had full representation in the final months because of several critical issues, including a handful of troubling bills facing vetoes. 

The cancer and a series of falls, including a broken hip proved to be too much in the end and he resigned. He later moved into hospice care at Respite House. 

Scott, a Republican, often said he was mentored by Mazza, a Democrat, when he joined the Senate in 2001 and remained a close, longtime friend after moving on to be lieutenant governor and governor. 

While in different political parties, the two men tried to stick to the middle of the road and avoid the extreme position sometimes expressed by their  parties. 

Gov. Scott appointed Andy Julow of North Hero last week to fill Mazza's seat until early January when the two-year term expires. Julow will take part in a special session in June called by Democrats to try to overturn some of the vetoes issued by Gov. Scott. 

Mazza operated a popular general store on West Lakeshore Drive in Malletts Bay that his father, Joe, founded 70 years ago. After graduating from Winooski High School, Dick Mazza was due to go to St. Michael's College, but he balked at the last minute. He was afraid his father would be forced to close the grocery store without his son putting in his work hours. 

Mazza often said his store was the best place to get the pulse of taxpayers. When not in Montpelier, Mazza could be found working the cash register, the meat counter or filling display shelves at the store. 

Mazza was in his prime while in his back office where he conducted the business end of his operations, but also would hold court. Mazza would be talking about politics and swapping jokes. Governors, state and local politicians, celebrities, reporters and residents would stick their heads in for good conversations. The jammed-packed office was filled with photographs, newspaper clippings, license plates, model cars, filing cabinets, gag jokes aimed at Mazza and more. 

And visitors knew their time was up when Mazza stood and began to walk away – often to start work on salads or to box the fresh-made pies his store is known for selling. 

The Mazza home is attached to the general store. It is where his wife of 58 years Dolly – who is known internationally for her hand-designed jewelry – and the senator raised their two children, Mike and Melissa. 

Mazza was well known for being among the best legislators through the years in providing constituent services in Vermont.  When state senators all got email accounts, he resisted and said people could always call him or stop by.  He said he liked the personal touch and always called back constituents – no matter the topic.

"Each of those days I considered it an honor that Vermonters have trusted me with their stories and had faith that I would act on their behalf, regardless of party affiliation or politics," Mazza said in his resignation letter. 

He held several longtime legislative posts, including Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, which meets mornings, and Vice Chair of the Senate Institutions Committee, which meets afternoons.  Mazza also had been since 1997 the third member of the powerful Committee on Committees, which makes many of the key assignments and appoints the chairs. 

There was some question whether Mazza would run two years ago, but when 11 of the 30 senators did not seek re-election, he was among several senior members agreeing to stay on. This time there will be at least five new senators elected this fall. 

Mazza, a lifelong Democrat, also often won the Republican Senate nomination when the GOP frequently failed to field a local candidate. Mazza was known to avoid the extremes of the two political parties and aim for the middle of the road for topics important to Vermonters. Colleagues said Mazza knew how to build consensus – a rare trait in the current widely divided legislature. He had the ability to work across the aisle. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today issued the following statement on the passing of Senator Dick Mazza: "Jane and I want to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Dick Mazza on the news of his passing. All Vermonters owe our sincere gratitude to Senator Mazza for his decades of service to Vermont. For the past 42 years, he brought integrity, fairness, and common sense to the Statehouse, and kept the needs of the everyday Vermonters he represented front and center."

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth today issued the following statement: “The loss of Senator Dick Mazza is 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.  

“Dick Mazza dedicated nearly four decades of his life to serving in the Vermont Senate. In addition to his countless accomplishments inside and outside of the legislature, he always brought kindness, generosity, good humor and a collaborative mindset to the Senate. He will be very sorely missed.”

The Vermont Senate honored Senator Dick Mazza's legacy with the following Vermont Senate Concurrent Resolution (S.C.R. 17):

By All Members of the Senate,

S.C.R. 17. Senate concurrent resolution honoring the nearly four decades of conscientious legislative service of former Vermont Senate Dean Richard T. Mazza of Colchester.

Whereas, in 1973, Representative Dick Mazza arrived in Montpelier to represent the Chittenden 14-3 district, succeeding his father, the late former Representative Joseph Mazza Sr., and

Whereas, during his two-term House tenure, Representative Mazza served on the Committee on Highways and its successor the Committee on Transportation, introducing him to matters destined later to dominate his legislative life, and

Whereas, in 1984, Howard Dean persuaded Richard Mazza to run for the Grand Isle District Senate seat, and his electoral victory ushered in a remarkable 39 years—the second longest in Vermont history—of uninterrupted Senate service, and

Whereas, Senator Richard Mazza served mornings on the Committee on Transportation and afternoons on the Committee on Institutions, and

Whereas, he became familiar with the roadways, railways, and airports in Vermont; and, beginning in 1991, he expertly chaired the Committee on Transportation, shepherding the annual transportation bill and successfully championing the resumption of Amtrak service, and

Whereas, Senator Mazza assisted in the development of the annual capital construction and bonding legislation and was a strong advocate for preserving the Long Trail, and

Whereas, since 1997, as the third member of the Committee on Committees, Senator Mazza was intimately involved in key decisions on the membership of standing, conference, and special committees, and

Whereas, aside from these official roles, Senator Richard Mazza was a passionate promoter of civility and mutual respect in the Senate, setting a dignified atmosphere; and his recent resignation due to health reasons and in the best interests of his constituents was received with sadness and expressions of good wishes, now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That the General Assembly honors the nearly four decades of conscientious legislative service of former Vermont Senate Dean Richard T. Mazza of Colchester, and be it further

Resolved: That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to former Senator Richard Mazza.

Vermont Chamber of Commerce President Betsy Bishop said: "Legend. Icon. Dedicated public servant. Senator Dick Mazza was all of these and more. He had a grasp of the Vermont voter, understanding how to balance providing benefits to the most vulnerable with the ability of Vermonters to pay. This is the definition of being a moderate, finding balance. He understood all the issues, the people, the process and all with an easy laugh. I will remember our talks in his committee room and his office at the back of the store the most, and I feel privileged to have worked with him over many years. Thank you, Senator Mazza, for your service to Vermont. We are all better for it."

He has been active in community work, serving on the Colchester Senior Citizens Housing Project, including as president. He also was a longtime member of the board of the Champlain Valley Exposition, Visiting Nurse Association and Friends of the Burnham Memorial Library in Colchester. 

Mazza received many other awards, including Vermont Grocer of the Year and the Citizen of the Year. 

Earlier this year the Colchester Selectboard, on behalf of the community, voted unanimously to honor Mazza by naming a road after the lifelong public servant, businessman and legislator. 

Dick Mazza Drive is now the name for the access road to the town's new indoor recreational center, which is currently under construction off Blakely Road.   The $15.9 million center is on a 14-acre town-owned parcel across from the entrance to Colchester High School.