Leigh Dakin: Role of Select Board in economic development should be high

Leigh Dakin. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

By Cynthia Prairie
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Leigh Dakin is ready to get back into the game. In the 1980s, she served nine years on the Chester Select Board and, more recently, six as a state representative in Montpelier.

With her new grandson, she’s been enjoying a retirement from a long career in nursing.

But when no one petitioned to be on the ballot for one of two available one-year terms on the board, Dakin decided to launch a write-in campaign. Incumbent Ben Whalen is also seeking re-election to a one-year term and Scott Blair has also launched a write-in campaign for one of those two seats.

“I’m excited about the town of Chester,” Dakin said during a recent interview about issues affecting the town. “Obviously there is a lot of work to do.” But she said, the town has “a lot of good energy” right now and more children in grade school.

As for the role of the Select Board in economic development, Dakin said, “It should be very high.” “We have Bob Flint (at Springfield Regional Economic Development Corp.). He has been accepted more and more,” she said, referencing the fact that for years Flint had to come to Town Meeting to urge Chester voters to agree to pay for his services to bring in or help out local businesses.  Now, that amount was raised to $10,000 and is included in the overall town budget.

“This board has come around to see that it can help in growing the town and businesses.” She added that the town “needs to market ourselves, and work together with other communities.”

The Select Board and town residents are currently mulling the purchase of the Tomasso property, 1,800-acres in Smokeshire, for possible recreational uses.  Dakin, who calls herself a “social progressive but fiscal conservative,” said, “We have to  … weigh what we already have. I have to think carefully about the town’s role in being the proprietor of that. … I can imagine what it might mean for the town. But,what will it cost us, not just when we sign the contract but in the future?”

Dakin recognizes that the town relies on “a great group of volunteers” to pull off many events that attract tourists, including the Fall Festival, Winter Carnival and Summer Music Series.

She also acknowledged those who have helped to make the town “look beautiful,” like Chester Townscape and the Master Plan Working Group. But as for the town hiring an “events coordinator,” she said she hasn’t thought about it. But “we have to be open minded to the needs of the community.”

Dakin also donates her time to the community, and currently lists among her work head of the board of directors for the Springfield Area Parent-Child Center and volunteer at the Chester-Andover Family Center.

In the next 10 years, Dakin said she would like to see “jobs filled by locals and bringing our young people back, to see Chester continue to grow with young families and their enthusiasm.”

About Leigh Dakin

  • Lived in Montpelier as a young teen, the oldest of four children
  • College in Virginia, studying nursing
  • Moved to Chester in 1976, where she raised her family
  • Worked at Springfield Hospital
  • Worked as a Visiting Nurse
  • Worked as a School Nurse in Saxtons River, Chester and Cavendish
  • Chester Select Board member for nine years
  • State legislator for six years
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Filed Under: ChesterLatest News

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She 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. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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