By Lisa Loomis
The Valley Reporter asked a variety of local community leaders to provide questions for the four candidates running for two state representative seats for the Washington 7 district which includes Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston, Moretown and Duxbury.
The candidates are incumbents Adam Greshin, I-Warren, and Maxine Grad, D-Moretown. Challengers are Ed Read, I-Fayston, and Heidi Spear, I-Fayston.
Candidates will be answering questions from community members at the newspaper's candidate forum at Big Picture in Waitsfield on October 27 at 7 p.m.
Dori Ingalls, founder, race director, The Mad Marathon
The Mad River Valley has been exploring avenues through the private sector and events to attract new visitors during the shoulder and slow seasons. Quoting Steve Jobs attempting to revive Apple, "The way we are going to survive is to innovate our way out of this." Do you have any inspirational plans to build and support local businesses and revive the local economy?
Read: As an entrepreneur who's built a successful local business, I've developed these observations and solutions for the three major consumer groups. Locals: We need more spending cash in our pockets through property tax and education funding reforms. Second-home owners: Thank you for keeping our economy afloat over the past several years. Tourists: Where did you go? Economic success in a resort community is based primarily on critical mass and this can be accomplished with two long-term structural changes. First, merge the chamber of commerce, MRV Planning District, MR Path Association and others into an Office of Economic Development, which would have oversight over marketing, events and public recreation. Dynamic leadership in this capacity would have a huge effect on our economy. Second, stop worrying about the slow seasons and focus our efforts on maximizing our assets during our peak seasons. Savvy business owners will figure out April and November.
Spear: Our situation reminds me of another Steve Jobs quote: "Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith." I think our economic climate has felt something like a brick to the head for many area businesses and residents. A fundamental problem that we have in reviving our economy is that too many residents and employees are so squeezed financially that they don't have disposable income to spend locally. Too many of us, business owners, workers and retirees, have been so squeezed financially that we haven't been able to make the community investments to expand our draw as a tourist destination. Innovation relies on teamwork and climate. It is not my place to try to show the way to the business community who know their customers, opportunities and challenges far better than I do. It would be my place to be an effective team member, turn the tide on our own capital and bring it home.
Grad: By supporting policies that build on our agricultural, recreation, tourism and manufacturing sectors to support the quality of life we seek. Our arts and cultural assets can maximize peak seasons and create vibrancy during the shoulder seasons—i.e., a community arts center; community year-round use of our town halls, schools, historic buildings, mountains and resorts; and year-round farmers' markets. Other businesses can tie into these efforts. Marketing can target incubators, renewables, high-tech and social media businesses, retreat and conference sponsors. Topnotch communications capability, partnerships between state agencies, municipalities and the private sector are vital. My State House work supports these goals. The Economic Development Bill provides access to capital, supports downtowns, streamlines development in industrial parks and expands agricultural credit. Our Working Lands Grants provide necessary funds and has supported local businesses like the Food Hub and Grow Compost. Our Office of Creative Economy supports Vermont's leadership in emerging industries.
Greshin: How about creating business incubator space? Using public and private money, create office space for budding entrepreneurs. Using the Mad River Valley Health Center model, buy or renovate a building and rent it to start-ups. If attracting new visitors is the mission, give people a reason to come here. Fill out the events calendar. Many still mourn the loss of the horse show, but I think it set the stage for a more events-driven calendar appealing to a wider variety of destination visitors. The Festival of the Arts entices travelers to check out the local arts scene. The Mad Marathon and the Stage Race attract world-class athletes. The BrewGrass Festival at Sugarbush and SIPtemberfest at Mad River Glen stokes the local party scene and showcases top local brews. Small events, such as the Round Up on the River, add to the hip factor of our community.
Susan Klein, former director, Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce
This question revolves around the politics of politics and it has to be framed differently to the incumbent and the challenger.
Incumbent: What has been your strategy and level of success in negotiating the various lawmakers' personalities and experience levels in order to push legislation through for benefit of your constituents?
Challenger: What will be your strategy in maneuvering through the various personalities and fellow lawmakers' experience levels to successfully push legislation through the system that benefits your constituents?
Spear: My strategy will be based upon my experience implementing change for customers. Whether automating supply chain management in governments, integrating stovepipes of customer data across business lines, or convincing executives of Fortune 50 companies that they should follow my advice about anything when I was fresh out of college, I have always had to maneuver through various personalities, experience levels and hostility to change. Intent, integrity and respect are crucial to effective collaboration with any group. So, too, is having a firm grasp of your subject matter and strong communication skills to advance a particular agenda. Transparency, inclusiveness and accountability go a long way to building bridges many think aren't possible, but are. Lastly, no matter how well positioned you are, no strategy to champion reform will succeed without passion and tenacity.
Grad: I recognize common goals, regardless of party. I've built relationships and trust through listening, ensuring all voices are represented and addressing concerns. My appointment of House Judiciary vice chair by Republican and Democratic speakers recognizes this. I have a record of working collaboratively as vice chair with Republican and Democratic chairs. My Highway Safety work demonstrates my success. I worked with my committee members – a conservative Republican, a Republican House committee chair and senators known for their opposition to cellphone restrictions and primary seatbelt legislation. Despite our differences, I achieved junior operator license restrictions, a texting ban, work zone ban on cellphones and passage of the hands-free cellphone law. My award-winning work on veterans and service member issues is another example. A colleague says: "When your colleagues see you voting independently, we can't help but respect how seriously you take your job of representing your district.
Greshin: Every legislator enters the State House filled with ideas and ambition. Successful legislators are able to distill the best ideas into draft legislation, shepherd it through the committee process and onto the House floor. Most bills never make it out of committee, but those that do have a strong advocate with both a vision and the ability to work with colleagues. Credibility is earned the hard way in the State House, by mastering the details, listening to opposing views and working to build coalitions. While floor speeches and news conferences enliven the evening news, they do little to get the job done. I've spent years earning a seat at the table with legislative leadership and the governor's office. I haven't always gotten my way, but I have been a major contributor to decisions on tax policy, consumer protection, energy and economic development. It takes experience, passion and patience.
Read: To be successful, you do whatever it takes and you outwork everybody else. Just like raising a family, running a business, or playing a sport – you do what it takes. Business is all about relationships, and I figure the Legislature is the same. With that in mind, my strategy will be to be myself. I will go in with humility, will listen to and learn from my peers and will build working relationships built on balance, trust and mutual respect. Leadership can take many forms, but it's always framed by knowledge and absolute integrity. Leadership isn't gained through self-promotion. It's acquired through collaboration, confidence and calculated risk-taking. It's embracing the big issues and knowing when to dig in your heels. It's knowing when to smile and when to run through a wall. I won't be perfect, but I will be heard. And I will make a difference for our community.