I’m not the best person to eulogize Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, whose death was announced by the Vermont Democratic Party this evening. But I do have some things to say, because I always had a soft spot in my heart for him.
Which is a bit strange, because he is the epitome of the kind of lawmaker I have little patience for. He’d represented Montpelier in the Legislature for 21 years; he was appointed in 2001 to succeed his late wife Karen. (He’d announced his retirement from the Legislature, but didn’t quite make it to the finish line.) He was elected time after time in contests that were over before they began, such was the power of his name and his place in the community. He was the founder of Onion River Sports, and he served in a plethora of roles in Montpelier city government and civic life.
I didn’t get to experience him in all his glory. By the time I started hanging out at the Statehouse, he was a quiet, genial presence with little to no policy profile. He rarely initiated any legislation, and rarely spoke in committee or on the floor.
In other words, he kind of occupied the seat without much apparent purpose. His very progressive city could have benefited from more energetic representation.
He ticks off all the bad boxes. Never won the seat on his own. Didn’t seem to do much or have any ideas. Stayed in office well beyond his sell-by date.
But hell, I liked the guy.
He was unfailingly friendly. He didn’t take himself too seriously. He was always up for a chat, and usually had smart, insightful things to say. He was a legitimate pillar of his community. He earned his popularity through service. In my limited experience, I never saw him act or speak out of meanness. If everyone were more like Warren Kitzmiller, this world would be a much better place.
Whenever I drive into Montpelier, I pass by his house on North Street. I once visited him there, and had a very nice conversation on his back deck. Maybe that’s why I took note of his house every time I passed by, and hoped he was doing well.
The drive down the hill will be a little sadder from now on. Many people will have much more reason to miss the guy and have much more comprehensive things to say about him. But I didn’t want to let his passing go by without comment. He was one of the good ones.