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. “The economy sucks, up here in particular, and our politicians don’t seem to be interested in doing anything about it,” he said. “I feel there are a number of things that can be done to improve the economic situation up here.”
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 he’d like to try at the state level.
“Scrapping Act 250 would be at the top of the list,” said Guyette, who feels Act 250 has lived beyond its intent. “It’s 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, it’s not working for us, so we have to do something about it.”
Guyette would like to change the state’s 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 region’s economic problems of constant high unemployment, under employment and poverty.
“It goes on decade after decade,” said Guyette. “I think it’s high time it stopped.”
One of Guyette’s solutions is to give corporate tax freedom for 10 years to attract new businesses to the area. “These businesses don’t exist, so we’re not losing anything,” he said. “But, he people they hire will be putting money back into the community, paying their property taxes and spending their money in local businesses.”
Guyette would like to see Orleans and Essex Counties declared economic zones as well as permit reform and zoning reform, both local and statewide.
“There’s been this idea that our politicians tend to know what they’re doing up here,” said Guyette. “Well, yeah, they know what they’re 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.”
Guyette said he is pro-business and WalMart is just a symptom of the problems the region has. It’s not so much about WalMart as it is economic change and reform in the Northeast Kingdom. He doesn’t necessarily believe WalMart is the ultimate ideal as an employer, but WalMart does provide jobs.
“I don’t harbor an anti-WalMart attitude; I harbor a pro-business attitude,” he said. “Whether it’s WalMart or Doll Mart, it makes little difference to me. They want to come here, fine, let them come here.”
Guyette is willing to help companies come to the region.
“Infrastructure improvements would be a big start,” 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. “Sort of like a superhighway improvement where you have that third lane for trucks.”
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.
“I’ve traveled to California and didn’t see any big piles of birds and bats at the foot of them,” he said of large wind farms. “Even at the big wind farms, I really didn’t hear anything.”
Guyette said local people don’t have a lot of experience on wind and don’t 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 doesn’t 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.
“We cannot have any development, because we have to keep the tourist industry,” he said. “We have to keep it pristine for somebody who doesn’t live here and doesn’t vote here, and I think that’s wrong.”
Guyette stressed he isn’t saying the NEK needs to look like Detroit, but doesn’t believe that young people deserve to be waiters and waitresses working at minimum wage.
“Tourist related jobs pay nothing,” he said. “There 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 that’s the biggest piece of baloney that the local politicians have sold on the locals for decades.”
Guyette’s message to voters is, “Just 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 don’t believe as a stand alone type of thing we have been living with for decades.”
Local politicians like to push tourism, because it’s easy, Guyette said.
Guyette works at Tivoly in Derby Line.