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Veteran Bennington Senator Dick Sears dies at age 81

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Longtime Vermont State Senator Dick Sears — who represented Bennington County for more than three decades — died this weekend. He was 81.

His death was confirmed by Senate leadership on Sunday; a cause of death was not given.

Sears, a Democrat, served in the Senate for 32 years and advocated for justice system reforms — including reducing the number of Vermonters incarcerated out of state — and often advocated for a trauma-informed approach to the rehabilitation of at-risk youth .

“If you think of every major public safety initiative, court reform, or decriminalization initiative over the last 30 years, chances are Dick Sears was the driving force behind it,” said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth in a statement.

Sears has also been a strong supporter of efforts to decriminalize cannabis and create a retail market. According to Baruth, over the years he changed his position on gun control from an opponent to an advocate.

“He was one of the most effective leaders in the Senate and will be greatly missed,” Sen. Brian Campion said in a statement released Sunday. “Dick was also a dear friend and I will always remember his sense of humor, sense of justice and lifelong dedication to the service of others.”

Gov. Phil Scott also said Sears’ death was an “incredible loss.”

“He was a true champion for Bennington County,” Scott said in a statement. “And as stubborn or gruff as he could be at times, he and I shared a love of golden retrievers – we both had them – and that was something we could always bond over.”

According to his legislative biography, Sears was born in Framingham, Massachusetts, on April 22, 1943, and became a
resident of Bennington in 1971.

He worked for more than 35 years in residential programs for problem youth. He served on the Bennington Select Board from 1987 to 1993, including as chairman, before joining the Legislature.

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