Man with a plan: Local zoning administrator making state Senate run
WHITINGHAM- Wayne Estey is a politician running for the Vermont Senate on a unique mission: to please everybody. Currently the Dover Zoning Administrator, the retired attorney describes himself as having a goal “to represent all the people because Windham County deserves more.” By “all the people,” Estey is including people behind gun control and people behind guns, those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life. He is well aware that conflicting positions such as those will “anger 50% of the voters.” He admits to being a “complex bag of issues” but he insists he wants “to represent the unregistered, the non-voters, the people who disagree with me as well as the people who do agree with me.”
Estey only made the decision to run and begin campaigning earlier this year. “I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said, although political activism on issues close to his heart has been in the making for some time. Estey enlisted in the Air Force in the early ‘70s and was ultimately stationed in Athens, Greece, where by chance he came upon a copy of the East Hartford Gazette. He read about an old classmate of his who had become a cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and was inspired to go to college. “I took courses wherever I was stationed in whatever I liked at the time,” he said, eventually earning 350 credits and finally graduating from Central Connecticut University in honors economics. He was then accepted to graduate school and attended law school at the University of Connecticut. For the next 30 years, Estey was employed at Northeast Utilities as an “econometrician,” someone who evaluates data and uses economic principles to predict complex market trends.
After retirement, Estey moved to Brattleboro, taught at Mount Snow Academy, and was appointed zoning administrator and health officer for the town of Dover. About that time, Estey wanted to increase his community involvement in the arts (as a painter himself) and local government. Running for the state Senate was not on his radar until he attended a candidates’ forum in Dummerston about three months ago. Disenchanted with the candidate running for reelection, whom he felt had failed to represent Dummerston’s opposition to school consolidation, he committed to the race.
Regarding the issue of abortion, Estey stated he personally believes abortion is wrong, but if pro-life advocates believe the fetus’ rights outweigh the mother’s, “then they need to put their money where their mouths are.” He elaborated that would entail ensuring those babies were taken care of, with better and more accessible child care, improved housing, health care, and educational opportunities.
On gun control, Estey said “Brattleboro has never seen a gun they like but out here people in more rural areas have never seen a gun control advocate they like.” Estey admitted that the statement was over-generalized. “We can’t take guns away from responsible people.” He noted that, “Vermont has its own gun right laws including that citizens not just militias can own guns. Background checks are good; but I could buy a gun today, be mad at somebody tomorrow, and that somebody is dead. Once you get a gun, how do you get the gun back?” He said that restricting gun ownership to begin with is a step. “We need better definitions of what weapons should be allowed. Fully automatic weapons are already illegal. (Semi-) automatic weapons are almost everything else. Some handguns can shoot as much ammunition as an AK-47.”
He proposes making 25 the age of purchase and ownership. “That doesn’t solve the problem of gifting and young mass murderers are less likely to have the involvement of competent, caring adults in their lives.”
Estey believes that Windham County in general is largely ignored by Montpelier and that he has heard some people who are not included in the Burlington/Montpelier orbit, call it “Montpeculiar.” Criticism of Vermont Agency of Transportation is something Estey is also aware of. “The roads in Windham County are bad but I’m not telling people anything they don’t already know.”
He added ruefully, “We’ll just ignore the internet and cell service quality in Windham because we already know they don’t hear us. Whatever has been tried or intended by the state has been ineffective and a decade behind everyone else, even behind the Third World in internet connectivity.”
His platform is formed around three prongs: economic development, child care affordability and quality, and internet connectivity. He believes that moving state agencies out of Montpelier, moving the public service department to Vernon, for example, and the arts commission to Bellow Falls, would make a difference. State employees in Montpelier and Burlington pour money into those communities in quantities far less than Windham County, which he says needs a growth spurt.
In Connecticut, Estey said, the governor moved the department of motor vehicles from Hartford to Waterbury and saved Waterbury from bankruptcy. “The economic value of state government has been sucked out of rural Vermont into Montpelier and Burlington and that has led to detrimental effects on increased housing costs. One beer is great; six beers you’re drunk. They’ve had their six beers. It’s called negative marginal utility, economics 101.”
He concluded, “Maybe if the state’s executive branch decision makers lived and worked in Windham County, spent their salary here, drove on these roads, and had our lack of internet connection to the outside world, they might make different decisions about what programs and spending occurs in our county and what we need.”