BRATTLEBORO—Taking on two well-established senators in your first race for public office might seem daunting, but Wayne Vernon Estey doesn’t seem overly concerned.
Estey is running in the Aug. 14 Democratic Primary against Windham County incumbents Jeanette White of Putney and Becca Balint of Brattleboro.
This is Estey’s first run for public office. He is 64, and a native of East Hartford, Conn. He previously worked as a senior economist for the state of Connecticut, as the lead attorney for the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control, and as a strategic planner for Northeast Utilities. He also operated a private law office for more than two decades, and served two years in the Air Force.
He moved to Vermont upon retirement, and has been working as the zoning administrator for the town of Dover and as a teacher at Mount Snow Academy.
But general restlessness, he said, got him thinking about ways to serve his community in retirement, so he sought and was appointed to serve as a Town Meeting Representative this year.
He said he never planned on running for the state Senate, but after looking around at the various public offices that were available, he looked at the Senate.
“Windham County is not getting its share of the resources,” Estey said. “I didn’t like some of the policies that were affecting Windham County. I asked myself, how could I change that?”
In retirement, he said, he made a conscious effort to pick Vermont as the place he wanted to live. When his friends back in Connecticut asked him why, he said “it’s hard to articulate, but go to a Selectboard meeting or a Town Meeting, and you’ll see why.”
Economic development tops Estey’s list of concerns. He said if you want to attract more younger families to Vermont, affordable, quality child care is an issue because there is not enough of it now.
Substandard broadband internet and cellular phone coverage is another deal breaker for younger people. “No one is coming to Vermont unless they have clear air, clean water, and high speed internet.” he said.
As for housing affordability, Estey believes that making homes more energy efficient is as important as low rents and access to mortgages for first-time homebuyers.
Estey called Act 46 “a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.” He believes big centralized schools that were designed to churn out factory workers are no longer viable in an post-industrialized society.
He admits that he is similar to Balint and White in terms of being “all very, very sincere and dedicated Democrats” who want a Democratic governor, a vetoproof majority in the House, and to maintain the party’s huge majority in the Senate.
He says he is different because he isn’t taking any campaign contributions — “no PACs, no out-of-state money” — and is self-funding his campaign.
“I’m not littering the highway with my signs,” Estey says. “I’m not mailing things to you or making robo-calls. I’m spending my own money and spending it carefully. I will do the same with the taxpayer’s money.”