Newcomers Cote, Whalen win seats on Chester Select Board; incumbent Jonynas garners most votes

By Cynthia Prairie
© 2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

ON THE COVER: From left, Arne Jonynas, Dan Cote and Ben Whalen.

Voters were a steady presence at Chester Town Hall on Tuesday. All photos by Shawn Cunningham. Click any photo to launch gallery,

Voters were a steady presence at Chester Town Hall on Tuesday. All photos by Shawn Cunningham. Click any photo to launch gallery,

The Chester Select Board will welcome two new members when it meets Wednesday night. Chester innkeeper Dan Cote and firefighter and state police dispatcher Ben Whalen will be taking their seats along with Heather Chase, who last year won a three-year term  in a landslide victory over incumbent Derek Suursoo.

With more than 1,000 residents voting, thanks to the presidential primary, the victorious campaigns by Cote and Whalen are anything but similar.

Cote, owner with his wife of the Inn Victoria, sought a three-year seat held by long-time board member Bill Lindsay. He mounted an active campaign with advertising, letter-writing, phone calls,  campaign signs and community chats, which helped him win by more than 200 votes — 571 to 366 — in the second landslide election in as many years.

On the other hand, Whalen, a lifelong Chester resident, found himself busy with his other public duties and decided to go low-key, believing that name recognition and community goodwill would do him well. And it did. In a three-way race for two one-year seats, he came in second  with 537 votes to incumbent Arne Jonynas, who had 588 votes. Incumbent Tom Bock came in third with 454 votes.

Cote Campaigning

Candidate Dan Cote went all out to get his name before the public. He and his rival Bill Lindsay shared a spot in front of Town Hall on Election Day, although Lindsay was not present when we took this picture.

On Tuesday night, Cote said, “The real work starts now. I’m pretty humbled that the town is speaking so loudly, saying that it wants change. … The makeup of the board is now skewing younger, quite a different perspective. I’m big on technology and that is part of the future. We have to use technology to our favor. This is about jobs. … we want to keep people here and we want to attract people here.”

Saying that he had “learned a lot about the people of the community” during the campaign, Cote recounted that one of the “best things that happened to me today (while campaigning outside Town Hall) was that Nancy Lindsay (wife of Bill Lindsay) brought three bowls of warm soup and gave one to me. I was humbled.”

UPDATE: In an email received at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Ben Whalen wrote: I am honored to have been elected by the people of Chester. Driving home tonight gave me time to reflect on just how meaningful is it, and I look forward to representing our community. I also want to congratulate Mr. Jonynas and Mr Cote on their elections.  I also would like to thank Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Bock for all the dedicated service they have done for Chester.

Ben Whalen was in class this evening and was unavailable for comment.

Jonynas, who won the most votes of any of the Select Board candidates, said Tuesday night he didn’t have an answer  to why that might be, adding  “I guess the people are happy with my work for the town.” He added that he was “a little surprised by the outcomes. I thought all the races were going to be closer. Obviously the town wants to go in a different direction. They see different ways of doing things.”

Jonynas, who has served on the board with both Bock and Lindsay for the past five years, said, “All of the candidates have the best interests of the town at heart. But there is a change in the air.”

Following the close of polls at 7 p.m., Justices of the Peace get down to the task of counting ballots.

Following the close of polls at 7 p.m., Justices of the Peace get down to the task of counting ballots.

Bill Lindsay, who has served on the board off and on for a number of years “whenever I saw the need,” congratulated the winners. “They’ll have a learning curve,”  he said, urging them to “do your homework. It’s not just two meetings a month. You’ve asked the voters for their vote and now you have to work for it.”

Lindsay added that running for local office is much more involved today than it was 30 years ago. “There is much more to learn.” Lindsay added that of course, he won’t give up public involvement. He’ll still attend Development Review Board meetings, Planning Board meetings, “especially since the Town Plan is being worked on.”

Tom Bock, who spent three or four terms on the Select Board in the 1980s and returned to spend the last six years on the board, said, “The town is in good financial shape.” The new board, he said will need to ensure that the projects currently under way or planned stay on track,  “the water project, road paving, sidewalk paving, the VELCO tower, these need to continue.” He also urged the new members to “do their homework,” and suggested that they read the packets that they get prior to meetings “two or three times. You have to know what’s in it.”

Bock said he intends to stay on the Planning Commission, which guides the Town Plan and has asked the Select Board to be reappointed to the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, where he serves as its chairman.

Bond bills pass

Incumbent Arne Jonynas, left, and Dan Cote wait while votes are counted.

Incumbent Arne Jonynas, left, and Dan Cote wait while votes are counted.

Chester voters also overwhelmingly passed the two bond articles for equipment and paving that were on the back of the candidates ballot.

Article 2, which passed 700 to 187, is for $269,900 in general obligation bonds: $8,500 for a mower for the Cemetery Department; $45,400 for the new pool decking for the Recreation Department; for the Fire Department: $40,000 for replacement hose, $18,500 for two air packs, $11,000 for a washer/dryer unit and $15,000 for a thermal camera; $70,000 for upgrading the Elm Street pumping station; $30,000 for a pickup truck for the Sewer Department and $31,500 to replace fire hydrants for the Water Department.

And Article 3, approved 764 to 120, is for $220,000 in general obligation bonds to pave 5,300 feet of roadway in a number of possible projects including High Street, First Avenue and Coach Road.

In other local races

Julie Hance, left, executive assistant to the town manager, and Town Clerk Deb Aldrich print out the results from the optical ballot reader.

Julie Hance, left, executive assistant to the town manager, and Town Clerk Deb Aldrich print out the results from the optical ballot reader.

These candidates won their seat unopposed: Bill Dakin was re-elected as Town and School Moderator; John DeBenedetti was elected as Town Grand Juror; Jo-Anne DeBenedetti was elected as Agent to Defend Suits; and Alison DesLauriers and Jeffrey Hance were elected to three-year terms as Green Mountain Union High School Directors with Bruce Parks taking the one-year term. Also, Alison DesLauriers will serve a three-year term and Heather Chase a one-year term as Chester Town School directors; Erron Carey will serve a three-year term as Trustee of Public Funds and Mariette Bock and David Lord will serve three-year terms as Trustees of the Whiting Library.

Positions that had no candidates were for one- and three-year terms as Lister; two three-year terms as a director of the Chester-Andover Elementary School Union #29; a three-year term as Auditor and six three-year terms on the Budget Committee.

UPDATE: Totals for school budget votes. GMUHS includes Andover and Cavendish as well as Chester. CAES votes include Chester and Andover.

GMUHS Budget – 1027 YES, 561 NO
CAES Budget – 942 YES, 244 NO
CAES surplus – 901 YES, 279 NO
RVTC (Chester only) – 707 YES, 274 NO

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Barre Pinske says:

    That is a very good question.

    I’m not saying setting up businesses. I’m suggesting planning as in tilling the soil or helping set the table.  In my opinion today, unlike any other point in my life, we are literally in competition with the world for residents, job creation and tourism. People can choose where they live based on schools, opportunities and culture. Towns are totally involved in business specifically with zoning.

    In Massachusetts, they want people working in an industrial zone, selling in a retail zone and living in a residential zone. That in part is why I moved here: to live, work and sell in one space.

    I’m no fan of big government. What I realize is it’s here. There are many opportunities available to us through town government, like the new planning grant that guys like me who want to help can’t even apply for. Chester town government — with input from citizens, business owners and experts — can help set the table for a better future for us.

    I don’t want a gift from anyone, but I sure would like some help with heavy lifting I can’t do. I want to do the same for others. The state, regional development group and the chamber work regionally. We need to work with them and be also able to specifically help ourselves. No one else is going to do it. 

  2. Tim Roper says:

    Are you suggesting that our town government is responsible for setting up new businesses in Chester? It seems to me that that is private, business organization work, not a function of government, but maybe I’m missing something.

  3. Barre Pinske says:

    I would like to thank Tom Bock and Bill Lindsay for their service to the town of Chester. There is no question that they had the best intent for the town and its well-being.

    I hope they stay involved and share their experience with the newly elected officials. I hope our newly elected leaders can move Chester forward in a fiscally sound and positive direction. I have been saying over and over what value we have in Rte. 103 traffic.

    Last night I had dinner with a second homeowner who owns six car dealerships in Connecticut. When our conversation came around to the town of Chester, he had a perplexed look on his face and asked, “Why are there not more interesting shops and cool things to do down there?”

    He said, “You have millions of dollars coming through your town and not enough people are taking advantage of it.” We discussed having a festival grounds, music shelter, go-kart track and a horse arena on the edge of town.

    We also discussed how — in a case like this year — we could be of value to the mountains with alternative things for folks to do. He felt there was not enough things going on for Chester to be a destination. I think our town metaphorically needs to go to treatment!

    People who enter treatment for addiction at are a point where they need to make changes or they will likely lose everything or die. They need to change but change brings fears and is inherently difficult.

    It’s time we made Chester great again! (OK, I stole that line!) Let’s at least work hard to get our property values back.

  4. Tim Roper says:

    I guess our Fire Department will be all set with equipment for a few years now. With their new allocation of $84,500 they must be the envy of departments in towns our size, all over the state. Be safe out there, firefighters!

    Thanks to everyone who puts their time and effort into helping keep the town of Chester running smoothly. Citizen government is a blessed reality here and one that takes a strong commitment from those who give themselves to it. I think the good people of our Select Board are probably under-appreciated by most of us.

  5. Sue Pollard says:

    Thank you for publishing the Chester results so quickly. It is great to have this local contact.
    Much appreciated!!!!