In Chester 3-year race, Lindsay and Cote talk town future

©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Two candidates are running for one three-year term on the Chester Select Board. Incumbent Bill Lindsay is seeking re-election and Dan Cote is hoping to unseat him when elections are held on Tuesday, March 1.

As we have done for previous contested races, The Chester Telegraph asked the candidates a set of questions about issues that concern Chester in hopes that their answers will give voters some insight into the people who want to represent them. Answers to each question are listed alphabetically by last name.

  • Dan Cote is the owner of the Inn Victoria having moved to Chester six years ago. He is past president of the Chester Rotary Club and is currently president of the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce. He was raised in small town northern Maine.
  • Bill Lindsay is a Brooklyn native who moved to Chester in 1972. He is the owner of the Chester Laundromat and has served  in Chester town government including stints on the planning commission and 17 years on the select board.

What are Chester’s biggest challenges and what should town government’s role be in facing them?

Dan Cote ThumbnailDan Cote: According to the numbers recently released by the Springfield Regional Development Corporation, Chester’s average property values have declined by 50 percent since 2008 and yet our regional neighbors have declined by 8 percent.  This is a direct reflection of stagnant leadership and weak vision. It is extremely unhealthy for a community to undergo such a significant loss in property values.  Sooner or later it will affect our tax revenue.  A robust Economic Development Plan combined with an investment in a leader who has the skills to implement the plan would be a catalyst to improving this situation.

The graduation rate of our high school students is way too low and worse yet, most of those who do graduate become our largest export product from the community: an unacceptable reality if we are to sustain and grow a healthy community. Our town government leadership should be front and center, leading expectations and ensuring the finest educational opportunities exist in Chester, even beyond high school.

Bill Lindsay ThumbnailBill Lindsay: Chester’s biggest challenge is maintaining needed services within the current tax base. Currently, town government continues to pursue a policy of seeking to maximize municipal grants to leverage our tax base (more bang for the buck.) See pages 51 and 52 in your 2015 Town Report.


What are Chester’s biggest opportunities and what should town government’s role be in making the most of them.

Dan Cote ThumbnailCote: Chester Village is in the center of the fastest fiber optic cable network in the United States. VTel is currently converting our entire network to state-of-the-art fiber-optic to deliver blazing gigabit-per-second Internet speeds to every home in the south-central Vermont service area of 14 rural Vermont villages. Soon we will all have access to speeds that are around 100 times the national average! That means JOBS! This fiber infrastructure will also bring businesses, schools and institutions to the next level, generate new business opportunities and deliver an adrenaline shot to the regional economy without changing what we love most about our way of life. Our leadership first needs to understand the possibilities this presents us with and take a decisive investment role in ensuring this opportunity is thoroughly exploited.

We often take for granted what out-of-staters dearly appreciate and will spend money to access what we have; a simpler way of life within a quintessential New England village. Within a four to five hour drive, more than 60 million people to our south can drive here on one tank of gas, enjoy our community and the region. Chester possesses a number of gems that need to be on the forefront of our town leadership’s agenda: The Common, Route 103 through the Depot, the Stone Village and the entry to Chester on 103 toward the village Common. These gems need support to maintain and develop the sort of attractiveness that will entice these 60 million potentials to stop and partake.

Bill Lindsay ThumbnailLindsay: Chester’s current opportunities lie within the framework of our schools and other municipal services providing such as high quality fire, ambulance and the like.

Town government continues to rewrite the Town Plan fostering an updated Economic Policy. Several public hearings will be held as the town comprises various community groups and it’s important to hear from all for their input.

What is the best use of the $300,000 Chester Economic Development Fund?

Dan Cote ThumbnailCote: I see five critical steps:

A. Research and develop an Economic Development Plan that generates immediate and highly visible wins/success. This plan must include aspects of tourism, education and  business.

B. Hire a person to lead and implement the plan.

C. Create an engaging marketing presence for the community through strategically placed signage & marketing.

D. Develop an incentive for businesses to access loans and grants.

E. Foster a renewal process for the growth of Economic Development funds through the investment in an aggressive grant-writing process.

Bill Lindsay ThumbnailLindsay: The Chester Economic Development Fund was established many years ago. Monies have been lent and mostly repaid as agreed. As in any lending business, losses do occur.

In August 2011, uses of these funds were reviewed and stricter guidelines established. The policy and guidelines are available at the Town Office from the Town Manager. In many cases, referrals come from the Chester Economic Development Corp. and were reviewed by them for their input.

If you are elected, what will be your top three priorities?

Dan Cote ThumbnailCote: Listen to the needs of Chester residents.

Aggressively pursue an Economic Development Plan that engages the five elements identified in Question 3 and ensure a strong and creative leader is hired and held accountable to the implementation process.

Create a process whereby the elderly and individuals in need can more easily access transportation, heat and food assistance.

Bill Lindsay ThumbnailLindsay: Adopting a Town Plan that looks forward to a healthy community. Utilizing the Municipal Planning Grant for a better outcome with the understanding that social media is a new driving force for a better economy.

Secondly, a good eye must be made on municipal spending understanding we have a very soft real estate market with many home for sale and a reappraisal shortly.

With an aging population in Chester and retirement income not keeping pace, it’s time for the select board to pursue additional senior housing. It makes a good economic sense (cents.) It’s clean, quiet and requires very little services.

Technology is changing the world every day but the Chester Select Board has struggled with technological issues like the new website and the solar farm decision. While members are not expected to be tech gurus, what can the board do to get the most from technology and avoid missteps?

Dan Cote ThumbnailCote: A short story will make my point: VTel’s fiber optic cable network running right through our community is the fastest and most robust in the United States, by 100 fold. YES, this is for real … check out what VTel is indeed doing for this region through an investment in fiber optics. Chester must invest in a consultant or a knowledgeable professional who knows this industry well, and help us navigate the process to seek out businesses in need of such a unique tool. This equates to jobs, good jobs that we and our children would be proud to be a part of.

Bill Lindsay ThumbnailLindsay: Technology is indeed changing the world. This year, the select board signed a contract with Velco to build a new tower. This new location will provide better range for our public safety services and provide better cell service. A move forward in technology is the solar farm on town property. This issue was before the board on many agendas and various companies made presentations. Understanding the various marketing strategies and sorting out direct benefits to the Town of Chester was not easy. If this is classified as a struggle – good. The board did its job. The board moved forward and a contract was signed. Yes, my vote was a tie breaker. This has now resulted in rent to the town as well as taxes and credit to electric usage. It is easy to raise taxes; it is hard to reduce them. (See page 5, 2015 annual report.)

As a challenger, what was the most important initiative in the last year that the select board either did not take up or took up but did not complete?

Dan Cote ThumbnailCote: An economic development plan that exploits technology and builds on the positive attributes of our community.


As an incumbent, what was the most important initiative in the last year that you wanted to see happen but did not happen?

Bill Lindsay ThumbnailLindsay: More progress in caring for several of our large town buildings, a stated program to move forward.



Elections will be held by Australian ballot from 9 to 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 556 Elm St. in Chester. Wednesday Feb. 24 is the last day to register to vote on Town Meeting Day. Town Hall will be open until 5 p.m. on that day.

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  1. Barre Pinske says:

    In response to John’s post.

    I’m having a very hard time understanding why he does not want to be like a town that is thriving, has a recognizable name, nice shops, restaurants and provides jobs for people.

    I don’t understand in speaking about our elderly why he is not recognizing the greatest investment for people of any class is their home. Not seeing that value withering away as a huge loss and how that is affecting our aging residents right here and now is a big mistake in my opinion. Let’s get real.

    To offer a solution to our economic issues based on fixed income retirees in the frozen North is not a great idea. For a town to thrive — not just survive – it needs people with disposable income not just a fixed income. Chester is not very elderly friendly: There is no place to walk to shop, no pharmacy and this week we were covered in ice!

    At the core of John’s post is a greater concern of mine, a value issue in our community we need to face and put and end too. It’s a form of discrimination that hurts ourselves and our economy and that is the attitude against flatlanders. How are people with money some how bad? Many folks in Chester don’t want to pick the low-hanging fruit but would rather suffer because they simply don’t like flatlanders.

    If more people had money and good relationships with people who have it, money to fix the Yosemite Firehouse could come right out of people’s pockets.

    Our current leaders do not have the connections to get things done and people who feel disliked are not going to reach out and help. It’s time we stop complaining about flatlanders. Let’s put on our big boy pants and create a community that people actually want to live in. Interesting shops and cultural events that bring in money. Yes flatlander money!

    Older people in Chester who may want to retire and move South for the winter are handcuffed with homes that are not selling for what they need. The current leadership has hurt the older people in our community by not taking action. Retirees are unable to live the American dream of working, creating home equity and retiring with that benefit. Putting people in a cheap condo is the solution?

    I have a friend who’s been coming to the Big Buzz Chainsaw Carving Festival for years. He is buying a home on Route 103 and putting in an art gallery. That sale will finally allow one family to settle their estate and it will bring a new working family to town. That gallery will encourage more people to shop in our town, eat in our restaurants and experience our culture.

    The more success of people making a living with cool shops along Route 103, the greater chance more homes will sell to a like-business so more retirees can move forward with their retirement goals. I went to the Select Board three years ago and asked for $625 to place an ad in an artisan trade magazine to invite artists to my studio for an open house and to see our town to see the homes for sale and recognize the value we have on Route 103.

    It was a simple request: Give me a rod and reel and I’ll try to catch us some fish. The answer was no.

    Recently, the Park Light Inn sold for around 100k and the big house on the corner of Maple and Depot once asking $450,000 sold for $125,000. Artisans don’t know what we have in potential earnings on Rte. 103. We are not promoting ourselves to let them know.

    Could some affordable senior housing be good for the town? Yes. But John’s argument suggests we build the future of our town on the backs of the elderly and aging. That is like getting the guys out of the football Hall of Fame to win a Super Bowl.

    In the words of Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank I say, “Stop the insanity, I beg you!”

    Dan Cote says his plan is to hire someone to promote Chester. It’s a small investment and in my opinion that’s taking proper action. I saw that very plan work real well in New Bedford, Mass.

    Chester’s future as an arts and crafts community can build on real Vermont pride of craftsmanship of its past. We have historic homes from the entrance to town out past the Green on Route 11 and out on Route 103 through the Stone Village. Arts and culture can and will be a glimmering facet of a new economy. How fast it happens depends on who’s standing in the way as much as who’s working to make it happen.

  2. Barre Pinske says:

    In the eight years since I have been in Chester our real estate values have gone down and many business are gone or worse off now than then.  Who knows, perhaps I am the cause!  

    One thing is certain: There are some serious economic and cultural problems, and solutions are not being conceived and implemented fast enough. Word on the street is we have a lack of leadership in town government. What we really have is a lack of creativity and vision. We have leaders. Vision is a chance to see ahead into the future and predict a result because something is as clear to you as the world being round when everyone else thinks it’s flat.

    Steve Jobs had vision. He changed the world more than anyone since Edison and he was fired from his own company! My point is vision is rare and hard to recognize.  What is clear to me is we have a river of millionaires and billioniares, quoting our friend Bernie Sanders, driving right through our town and we yet are struggling.  

    What kind of tribe would we be if we were living someplace with more fish in the river than we could eat yet we were hungry? We are that tribe!   I put that dilemma right at the feet of all current leaders. It’s their job to fix it. They are steering the ship, they have the rod and reel and they are not catching  the fish.

    Leaders need to have the vision to make things work or to listen to people who can and make things happen and do it or get out of the way.  

    The truth is not much attention has been placed on economic development, nothing is being done. I don’t expect a genius to move to Chester and run for select board or for our select board to change the world. It’s more of a management position.  But aside from having vision, people in these positions can also stand in the way of progress as much as help it.

    I am grateful for the friendship, service, dedication and leadership of the Select Board and Bill Lindsay. I have had many conversations with him. I am convinced he is a good man and his long-term service is commendable. But I will not be voting for him this year.

    Today we are down and we need results more than ever. …

    In the 2003 American League Championship series — Red Sox vs. Yankees — Pedro Martinez needed to be taken out of the game. I was screaming at the TV “take him out! Take him out!”

    All of Red Sox nation had the vision to see Pedro was gassed. We had a strong bullpen but Grady Little let him in and we lost. Grady lost his job for his mistake. And it was another failed chance to win a World Series for the Sox since 1918 and another huge heartbreak from a bad decision.

    I am convinced we can win, sooner than later if we have the courage to make a change. The change in this case means voting for the person with the most vision, who has the most willingness to listen to ideas and who is most willing help us implement them.

    That person is Dan Cote. Dan has shown he has vision. He is successfully doing something most people fail at. He gets it. Please, get out and vote and elect Dan Cote to the Chester Select Board.

  3. John Grady says:

    Bill Lindsay said, “With an aging population in Chester and retirement income not keeping pace, it’s time for the select board to pursue additional senior housing. It makes a good economic sense (cents.) It’s clean, quiet and requires very little services.”

    The aging population extends beyond Chester, which means the potential might be very good to bring in the working class senior money. More property to tax and more water and sewer customers. The system is already built and if it has spare capacity it’s an under-utilized asset.

    Seniors need medical care, which means jobs. It brings home the bacon and is good for the hospital and the area medical providers to have a good size population to serve.
    Seniors have cars that require care and they shop for food an other things so more demand for goods and services. The next batch of seniors is going to contribute to the economy someplace so why leave money on the table if it’s viable to go after that demographic to get them to call Chester home?

    If 25 percent of the population in town is currently over 65 years old, what is the town going to look like in 10 to 15 years? Are the current seniors supporting some local businesses that won’t survive losing a lot of their best customers?

    On River Street there is a old farm house on 5 acres for sale and probably water and sewer lines. Building something like 30 senior condo type places valued at say just $50,000 each is $1.5 million of property to tax plus water and sewer customers who will also be customers for medical, automotive, groceries and other business, which means jobs. People with jobs also contribute to the local economy so it’s a snowball effect.

    Add seniors who have Medicare and retirement income and low ball it at $25,000 per senior added to the local economy and it’s $2.5 million per 100 seniors. Retaining local people who retire and attracting others could be a cash cow.

    Once a place gets rundown and boarded up it’s hard to make a comeback and attract people to invest in a place that is dying or dead.

    Trying something involves risk. To limit the risk go slow and easy and if it looks good expand it but don’t get greedy and carried away and create a bubble. Keep a low profile, don’t put up a Neon Sign saying Gold Mine or everyone will try and get in on the action.

    Working class seniors aren’t headed to luxury retirement communities like the top 10 percent, which leaves the other 90 percent to market affordable living to. Affordable is the key to giving it a try.

    A bunch of people believe the town should be a amusement park for the top 10 percent so they can try and make money off of those flatlanders. How about Chester be a town for the other 90 percent like the people who do all the work in the country? There might be federal HUD or USDA rural money for senior housing, so why not get some to provide a decent standard of living to working class people who didn’t luck out and hit the job lottery and land a good job decades ago that came with a good pension?

    Beyond the money aspect is the humanitarian aspect of being able to hook up the disenfranchised with a decent standard of living in their retirement. They didn’t benefit from trickle down economics. They got played off against Third World labor so Biff and Muffy could save $10 on a TV.

    It also sends a psychological message to children and young people to see positive things happening and see society taking care of working class people and that life isn’t all about the top 10 percent.

    The Hope & Change chatter along with sound bites like fresh blood and bring new ideas to the table amount to absolutely nothing. The town elected a newbie last year, any sign of Hope things are Changing?

    Anyone with an idea can go to a town meeting and put it on the table or type it up right here. Vague nothingness isn’t going to change anything. This small town has no control over state or national policies. There is no magical solution in today’s economy or somebody would be doing it and then everyone else would copy it.

    Realists accept how things are and game the system as it stands. Dreamers wish things where different and blame problems on something.

    I’ll be voting for the very experienced town elders.

  4. Aleks Hunter says:

    I am writing to wholeheartedly endorse and support Dan Cote for a three-year term on the Chester Select Board.

    Dan, his wife and children may perhaps be newcomers by Vermont standards, but they not only hold, but embrace by what my family and I believe to be the real ideal small-town values of hard work (for the benefit of himself, his family and the community at large), faith — which by his actions show is best for uplifting and healing, and that most precious of all values honesty. I would not hesitate to trust any member of Dan’s family in any circumstance.

    Any small town would do well having more people like the Cotes moving in. My wife started working with Dan and Penny six years ago, when they first arrived. Our business relationship has been positive and productive in every measurable way.

    Since coming here in 1999 I have watched well over half of the small inns and B&B’s in and around Chester close their doors forever. Property values have slid not only badly when compared to national averages, but compared to actual purchase price over periods of five, 10 and more than 15 years.

    Current select board members attempt to fold strictly village expenses — water and sewer — into the town’s general fund when such utilities, while necessary in dense population areas, serve no real benefit to people living outside the village.

    A recurring mantra, chanted by too many local voices, has been “we don’t want to be like Woodstock!” Chester will never become another Woodstock, not in the lifetime of anyone old enough to read this. However, the wellspring of untapped potential and resources in Chester are far more than enough to slow and stop the stagnation in town and erosion of property values and attract new people who will create the great jobs.

    With good leadership, Chester can thrive and attract new high technology businesses and the highly paid professionals that will staff them.

    Dan and Penny have operated Inn Victoria successfully, made it thrive, creating jobs, paying and collecting more taxes than most, and attracting a great deal of new, affluent customers to town. And they have done so while engaging in other successful ventures.

    Our homegrown hospitality is something that has been leveraged so much better in many Vermont communities that thrive and benefit — not only financially but culturally — from exposure to successful people from around the world who do love coming to Vermont.

    We do not agree on every issue, but what differences we have, Dan has never allowed to interfere with a good “thinking outside the box,” mutually beneficial business relationship.

    He has proved himself to be a consensus builder who will listen and think before deciding.
    The performance of the “powers that be” in Chester, as manifested by the appalling drop in property values, accompanied by the appalling rise in property tax rates vs. real property values, skyrocketing costs of the educational system with its failure to produce improving outcomes while serving a dwindling student population all combine to make it obvious that the Chester is overdue for new leadership who will be guided by a vision of just how good Chester can become.

    Please join me on Election Day and vote for Dan Cote for Chester Select Board.

  5. Polly Montgomery says:

    This is so helpful to read and get a sense of both candidates. It is so exciting to hear new ideas and energy in Dan’s responses. I spend lots of time in Chester, but live in Rockingham. My husband and I want Chester to thrive!