DERBY - Jim Guyette of Derby Line is running for the Vermont State Senate as a Democrat. Guyette had been considering throwing his hat into the ring about a year and half.
Guyette is seeking office for what he calls "simple" reasons. âThe economy sucks, up here in particular, and our politicians donât seem to be interested in doing anything about it,â he said. âI feel there are a number of things that can be done to improve the economic situation up here.â
Guyette is not sure if there is a lack of political will, no backbone or no imagination. Whatever the case, Guyette said he has imagination, a backbone and a lot of ideas heâd like to try at the state level.
âScrapping Act 250 would be at the top of the list,â said Guyette, who feels Act 250 has lived beyond its intent. âItâs used primarily now for anyone who has an ax to grind, a little bit of money and too much time on their hands. As it is, itâs not working for us, so we have to do something about it.â
Guyette would like to change the stateâs policy and attitude towards the economy in the Northeast Kingdom. He said there seems to be a hands off attitude towards economic development or having ideas on how to deal with the regionâs economic problems of constant high unemployment, under employment and poverty.
âIt goes on decade after decade,â said Guyette. âI think itâs high time it stopped.â
One of Guyetteâs solutions is to give corporate tax freedom for 10 years to attract new businesses to the area. âThese businesses donât exist, so weâre not losing anything,â he said. âBut, he people they hire will be putting money back into the community, paying their property taxes and spending their money in local businesses.â
Guyette would like to see Orleans and Essex Counties declared economic zones as well as permit reform and zoning reform, both local and statewide.
âThereâs been this idea that our politicians tend to know what theyâre doing up here,â said Guyette. âWell, yeah, they know what theyâre doing - they're doing nothing. I think it's time that the state got involved and provided a little bit of oversight into this problem.â
Guyette said he is pro-business and WalMart is just a symptom of the problems the region has. Itâs not so much about WalMart as it is economic change and reform in the Northeast Kingdom. He doesnât necessarily believe WalMart is the ultimate ideal as an employer, but WalMart does provide jobs.
âI donât harbor an anti-WalMart attitude; I harbor a pro-business attitude,â he said. âWhether itâs WalMart or Doll Mart, it makes little difference to me. They want to come here, fine, let them come here.â
Guyette is willing to help companies come to the region.
âInfrastructure improvements would be a big start,â he said. Guyette would also like to see road improvements plus a truck lane between Gilman and St. Johnsbury, and between Newport and Franklin County. âSort of like a superhighway improvement where you have that third lane for trucks.â
Guyette favors a natural gas pipeline but calls wind power a distraction. He said it should be up to towns to decide, but feels there is a lot of outside interest by a few individuals.Â
âIâve traveled to California and didnât see any big piles of birdsÂ andÂ bats at the foot of them,â he said of large wind farms. âEven at the big wind farms, I really didnât hear anything.â
Guyette said local people donât have a lot of experience on wind and donât know whom to believe.
The state has had some big problems, particularly with Vermont Yankee, said Guyette, who is not sure how he feels about nuclear power. He said if the owners have not maintained the plant, it doesnât deserve to remain open, but he feels he needs to do more research.
Guyette would like voters to understand there is a deep-seated idea among local politicians that the Northeast Kingdom needs to be kept like it is for the outsiders.
âWe cannot have any development, because we have to keep the tourist industry,â he said. âWe have to keep it pristine for somebody who doesnât live here and doesnât vote here, and I think thatâs wrong.â
Guyette stressed he isnât saying the NEK needs to look like Detroit, but doesnât believe that young people deserve to be waiters and waitresses working at minimum wage.
âTourist related jobs pay nothing,â he said. âThere is no future to them, never has been. The idea that the tourist industry will save us has been going around since I was a kid and thatâs the biggest piece of baloney that the local politicians have sold on the locals for decades.â
Guyetteâs message to voters is, âJust remember, your kids are going to either leave or be stuck in these minimum wage jobs. I believe in tourism a component of the economy, but I donât believe as a stand alone type of thing we have been living with for decades.â
Local politicians like to push tourism, because itâs easy, Guyette said.
Guyette works at Tivoly in Derby Line.