Meet the candidates for Chester Select Board

Three candidates are vying for two one-year positions on the Chester Select Board: Incumbent Leigh Dakin, who won her seat last year in a write-in campaign; Scott Blair, who ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign last year; and Water/Sewer Commissioner Jeff Holden. Select Board member Ben Whalen deciding not to seek re-election.

Board chair Arne Jonynas is seeking re-election to a three-year term and is unopposed.

Three weeks ago, The Chester Telegraph sent the candidates a series of questions for them to answer. We have gathered their responses and put them in random order below the questions.

Voting will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 at Chester Town Hall, 556 Elm St.

Give us a short autobiography of yourself. (What do you want voters to know about you?)

Leigh Dakin

LEIGH DAKIN: I have lived in Chester since 1976. My family includes my husband, Bill Dakin, and my three children, Chris Dakin, now living with his wife, Ann, in West Allis, Wisc., Jessica Kinzie, now living with her husband, Aaron, and our grandchild, Langston, in Wilder, Vermont, and Emily Dakin, now living in Nairobi, Kenya.

As a registered nurse, I worked at Springfield Hospital, then with the Visiting Nurses Association. Thereafter, I worked as the school nurse in Saxtons River, Chester and Cavendish.  I served as a member of the Chester Select Board from 1980 to 1989 and as legislator in the Vermont General Assembly from 2011 to 2017.   Currently I am a member of the Chester Select Board and am the chair of the Springfield Area Parent Child Center Board.

Jeff Holden

JEFF HOLDEN: I’m a lifelong resident of Chester, I grew up on Holden Acres Farm in the Depot. I spent nine years in the Vermont Army National Guard and am a member of the Chester American Legion Post #67.

I was in the printing business for 12 years, six as night shift foreman while still working the farm during the day. In April 1990, I started working in the Chester Highway Department and have worked in most of the town departments at one time or another.

After a few years, I started working between the Highway Department and the Water Departments, then transitioned to Water Department full time. I spent 22 years in the fire service, 5 1/2 years as chief in Chester, 27 years in EMS with Chester Ambulance and Lefevres Ambulance Services; 17 years as a part-time Chester police officer.

I recently have been working with the Town Manager Search committee. I currently am the Water and Wastewater superintendent and, in April, I will have a full 30 years service to the community.

Scott Blair

SCOTT BLAIR: I am 32 years old. I was born and raised in the Lebanon, N.H., and Windsor, Vt., area.

My wife, my son and I moved to Chester six years ago. We were looking for someplace that was more then just a town that people lived in: We were looking for a community.

Since moving to Chester, we started our own business that started as a home bakery and evolved into the Southern Pie Café that my wife and I have on the Chester Green.

I have been involved with our recreation department since the day we moved here and have coached different sports for multiple levels.

What prompted you to decide to run for Chester Select Board and what do you think is its most important function?

JEFF HOLDEN: The main reason is I decided to run is that you should not complain about something if you are not willing to step up and be a part of the solution, if not you are part of the problem. and I believe one of the most important functions of the board is to ensure growth in the community, provide the necessary services while keeping the tax rate as low as possible.

SCOTT BLAIR: Being involved in community activities and committees I have heard from a lot of people that our town needs the “young blood” to be more involved and be more proactive for the future of our town. So for me bringing in the younger generation to start being involved in our town politics more is very important because, for Chester to keep growing, the next generation needs to be fully involved.

LEIGH DAKIN: Chester is a wonderful town in which to live, with strong schools, a great town library an active recreation department and a strong sense of community support. Our town employees do a fine job maintaining our roads and municipal infrastructure. As a community, our town government needs to meet the needs of all, including families, long-term residents, local businesses and visitors. This requires good planning and leadership so that we can maintain, improve and expand, all while keeping a clear focus on the costs of town government.

What skills/perspective/experience would you bring to the Chester Select Board?

LEIGH DAKIN: My involvement in local and State functions has provided me with an ability to listen to and work with others as we identify the areas in which we as members of our community can make a difference in making things work.

SCOTT BLAIR: I have been on the chamber of commerce board of directors and involved with many event committees.

JEFF HOLDEN: I bring lifelong experiences in the community and 30 years working within the municipal system.

 

What issues or initiatives do you see as important for the upcoming year and what is the board’s role in them?

SCOTT BLAIR: Keeping the town on its path with the town plan and economic growth is very important and will lead to bringing in more families and grow tourism as well.

JEFF HOLDEN: We have many new projects in the plans for the near future that I can see making a difference in town. I would like to see the budget process simplified and clearer so that everyone can follow it easily.

LEIGH DAKIN: I want to continue to the discussion and planning for safe walking and biking, within and outside the village, and to continue the review of the condition and uses of our town properties, including the Chester Academy building and our park and recreation lands.

What is your vision for Chester, say in 10 years down the line?

SCOTT BLAIR: My vision for Chester is for the economy to keep increasing and for it being known as a successful, small-business friendly town, and for young families to keep moving to Chester and become involved in the community.

LEIGH DAKIN: I would like to see that our town budget has been maintained at an affordable level, our municipal services benefit all of our residents and visitors, our school population has increased, and Chester is a livable and comfortable place to raise a family and run a business, and a town that can attract new residents and visitors.

What else would you like the voters to know about you?

JEFF HOLDEN: While I do like serving the public, I don’t necessarily like being in the spotlight.

LEIGH DAKIN: I have been blessed with and humbled by the opportunity to live and raise my family in the small, rural town of  Chester. We are all concerned about the well being of our neighbors and share the work of keeping Chester as a good place to live and work.  We want to continue to work to make this a good place to live.

SCOTT BLAIR: I may be young but I am very passionate about our town and the future of it. I am dedicated to the future of this community and will work hard with everyone involved.

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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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