Meet the Candidates: Three vie for two 1-year seats on Chester Select Board

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Three races for the Chester Select Board are being contested in this year’s election: Three people are running for a three-year term and another three people are running for two one-year terms.

Leigh Dakin and Jeff Holden are seeking re-election to their one-year seats and are being challenged by Will Hoser. (On the cover are from left, Dakin, Holden and Hoser.) (For the three-year term, incumbent Heather Chase is running for re-election. She is being challenged by Jeannie Wade and Scott Blair. They are the subject of another Q&A.)

In an effort to help Chester voters meet the candidates, The Chester Telegraph has sent the candidates a series of questions pertinent to the community, to allow you to compare and contrast them and hopefully make your decision  a bit easier. We’ve asked them to keep their answers to 250 however for those that were longer, you will see ellipses … where we cut for length.

NOTE: Will Hoser did not return his answers to the questions below.

The election will take place by Australian ballot at Town Hall, 556 Elm St., 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 2. You can also vote early at Town Hall or request an absentee ballot.

A bit about each candidate in their own words:

LEIGH DAKIN: I have been a resident of Chester for 45 years. I am a registered nurse and worked over the years at Springfield Hospital, Visiting Nurses and Hospice and both CAES and Cavendish Schools. We have raised our three children in Chester, two of whom were born at Springfield Hospital.

I served on the select board in Chester for 10 years during the ‘80s and represented the Chester, Andover, Baltimore and North Springfield residents in the state legislature for six years. I presently serve on the Chester Select Board. This community is vibrant, caring and I cannot think of a better place to raise a family.

 

JEFF HOLDEN:  Born July, 25 1960, grew up in Chester, graduated from Bellows Falls Union High School in 1978. Raised on Holden Acres Dairy farm here in Chester Depot and still live there today.  I have been employed by the Town of Chester for 31 years in April. I started in the highway department and slowly changed over into the Water and Wastewater departments that I have been running now for many years. I also joined the Chester Ambulance service and was active in EMS for 27 years. I was also in the fire service for 22 years serving as the Chief for five and a half years with the Chester Fire department. I still serve as the town’s Fire Warden.  I am and have been for about 18 years a part time certified police officer, working on average two shifts per week.  I also serve as the Town Constable.  I served with the Vermont Army Guard for nine years and a member of the Chester American Legion post #67 serving as the 2nd vice commander.

I think that the above statement shows that I have a very well rounded knowledge of the Town of Chester and shows my commitment to community service and only wanting what is best for the community.  I am currently serving on the Chester Select Board and wish to continue to help maintain a balance and continuing to maintain fiscal responsibility.

What is your position on an “opt-in” vote for retail sales of cannabis in Chester? Do you see retail cannabis in Chester as a positive or negative?

LEIGH DAKIN: I think it is really important to learn more about the program and look forward to hearing the report from the recently formed commission appointed by Gov. Scott to study and recommend more information about how individual towns might benefit from this proposed program, tax implications, etc.

 

 

JEFF HOLDEN: I think that we are way ahead of ourselves with this question.  No. 1, the last I heard no one has yet been appointed to the cannabis oversight committee.   Second, who is supposed to over see enforcement of this law? I heard the liquor control board, however I have spoken with two separate liquor inspectors and they, as yet, have not been told so.  Also, after we receive the final rules and laws from Montpelier we will have to update our own municipal ordinances so that they are in line with them.  Otherwise we will have no way to control the usage in public.  Also this was not in our marketing plan that we have been pushing for Chester the last 3 or 4 years.  We have a lot to consider.  I can tell you that when they decided to legalize it, they did it in a rush and did not give law enforcement any guidelines on how to deal with it.  I see it as a negative at this time as it was not considered in our town marketing plan.

What is the responsibility of the town for maintaining its historic buildings?

JEFF HOLDEN: The town does have a responsibility to maintain historic buildings, however we have a lot of them and we need to be  fiscally responsible and not to overextend ourselves again.

 

 

 

LEIGH DAKIN: Preserving the historic buildings is a very important part of our heritage. I believe our town administration works hard to find ways to enhance the beauty and history and supports the need to access resources available whenever possible.

 

 

The downtown Master Plan called for substantial investments in streetscaping and wayfinding signage. Is this taking the town in the right direction or not and why?

LEIGH DAKIN: The Planning Commission has presented a Master Plan that outlines the ways to enhance streetscaping and wayfinding and I am excited to continue the progress made so far. The goal to have a “walkable downtown” for visitors and residents.

 

 

JEFF HOLDEN: As with the previous question we need to maintain a financial responsibility and I personally do not want too much signage because it, in my opinion, takes away from the beauty of the village.  And the more infrastructure we put in, via street lights and signage the more future cost to maintain it.

 

 

Recently the town has seen a hot real estate market that has brought a substantial number of new residents. It has also pushed home values up and made living in Chester less affordable for many. How do you view this situation and is there a role for the town in this situation?

JEFF HOLDEN: I don’t know how we can stop people from moving to town, nor do I think that we want too.  But I can say that having 25 to 35 empty houses in the village is not a good thing.  And until this latest boom, that is what we had.  If they are not lived in, they are not taken care of and look run down.  I think that there are many tradesmen that have been very busy lately because of it.

 

LEIGH DAKIN: This is a situation with which I am not so familiar. I do understand that young families have moved here and hope our schools and other services will be enhanced by these changes.

 

 

There has been a call for civilian oversight of the Chester Police Department – especially as it moves to the new Public Safety Building, which will have a holding cell. What is your position on establishing a public board and what should be that body’s responsibility and powers?

LEIGH DAKIN: At this point these ideas are still under review and Julie Hance, our town manager, continues to update the board about the progress being made. I look forward to learning more.

 

 

 

JEFF HOLDEN: There has been a lot of misinformation and/or misunderstanding of what this would be.  It would be a Civilian Advisory Board not Civilian Oversight.  Oversight implies that they could tell law enforcement what they could do and enact disciplinary actions over law enforcement, they can’t per state statues. These actions can only be taken via the police chief or the Vermont Criminal Justice Training counsel.  An Advisory Board should have a certain number of persons that have law enforcement experience or certifications to advise. You couldn’t have inexperienced  or uncertified people evaluating or judging doctors or medical personal.  As far as the new building and dealing with holding cells, we would follow the state recommended policies and procedures that we already follow when we transport other detainees to other facilities.  All of our officers have had experience with this already.

What should be the scope and purpose of a marketing program conducted by the Town of Chester?

JEFF HOLDEN: I think that our marketing should be well rounded and encourage small businesses and residential usages.

 

 

 

LEIGH DAKIN: I think we are very fortunate to have this opportunity which has been presented to us and I look forward to learning more as we move forward.

 

 

 

Why are you running for this office?

LEIGH DAKIN: I feel positive as we move forward that Chester is a very special Town. The outpouring of support of ALL our residents including the work of our incredible volunteer force and businesses who never waiver with their everyday caring and provision for each and every person who calls Chester HOME!

 

 

JEFF HOLDEN: As a lifelong resident I think that should be obvious, but to encourage fair treatment of all residents and small businesses and continued prosperity for all.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    The answers never came in. We were in contact several times, and even took his photo on Monday. At that time he said he would have the answers in that afternoon.

  2. Darryl Douglas says:

    I would be very interested in Will Hosers answers. Did he decline to answer Or just didn’t make the deadline?

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