Speaking by phone from the parking lot at the Vermont Secretary of State’s office just moments after turning in his petition, Gilpin said he gathered 70 signatures – 20 more than the 50 required to file for candidacy. Gilpin will run as an independent candidate, ensuring a three-way race with incumbent Democrat John Moran and another independent challenger from Dover, Laura Sibilia. The district includes the towns of Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, and a portion of Whitingham.
Gilpin said he had been considering a run for the office for several months before making the decision. He says he plans to run an issue-oriented campaign, focusing on one issue he believes hasn’t gotten enough attention. “I wanted to focus the conversation on the economic development of the district,” he said. “It’s that simple. When people talk about issues with state representatives in the district, the two topics of conversation are education and the property tax. And a little bit of conversation about tourism.”
Although Gilpin agrees that education and property tax reform are important issues, he sees solutions to both in an improved economic outlook in the area. “The way I see it, we have four things we need in the district to improve the local economy,” Gilpin says, “well-paying jobs, quality and affordable housing, great schools and education, and a strong relationship between the generations of residents and business owners. The third piece is well covered, and will continue to be covered, but the well-paying jobs, quality and affordable housing, and generational relationships are the pieces of the puzzle I’d like to focus on.”
By “generational,” Gilpin is referring to different factions in the business community. “We often hear the conversation phrased in two sides – people in the district who want economic development immediately, or people who are hesitant. Both sides see the other as opposition. But everyone wants the same thing, to increase the quality of life in the district.”
Gilpin says it’s possible to find economic development solutions that suit all the factions – including those who want to protect the area from the impact of development. “I’m not looking to move factories into towns or turn farms into condos,” he says. “But there are ways we have to find to bring in the next wave of businesses in the area. We can have a small tech company that moves into a barn, or people can start a design firm that could design the next wave in hiking gear. There are ways we can bring in new businesses and a generation of new entrepreneurs without spoiling what we all like about the area, which is the quality of life.”
Gilpin says he plans to run a “money-free” campaign; he won’t accept any donations or raise any funds. “The beauty of living where I live is that I can do this without money,” he says. “If you have good ideas, it doesn’t take long for people to share them, and that’s the way politics happens in this district.”
Social media will play a significant role in Gilpin’s campaign, but he says face-to-face meetings with voters and local groups is the most important way he’ll be reaching out. “Social media is a good way for people to generally get to know how I think, who I am, and what I’m about. But it doesn’t develop that personal touch you get from meeting people, looking them in the eye, and getting an understanding of their life.”
And, if elected, Gilpin says his constituents will be the ones to guide him in his legislative work. “The way I view politics, it’s not about me trying to convince people about my ideas, it’s about me being there to solve their problems in the best possible way. It’s about listening to everyone, hearing what they have to say. There are a lot of ideas in this district that haven’t come out to the front yet because there haven’t been the discussions – yet.”
Gilpin owns the Dover-based Green Mountain Marketing Group, and is the executive director of the International Television and Film Festival, held in Dover. Gilpin says his website, www.philipgilpinjr.com, should be online within the next few days.