Oct. 21, 2010By Mariana Lamaison Sears Observer correspondent
When Jay Michaud drives down Burlington’s Main Street toward Lake Champlain, he can see the legacy of his work. Fifteen years ago, the landscaping company he had founded as an entrepreneurship experiment won the bid to plant the trees that still grow along the city’s major access road.
“We planted over 500 trees. I’m very proud of that,” Michaud said.
A FedEx ground contractor, Michaud said he likes to leave a legacy in everything he does, and he is now looking to Montpelier to leave his next one. He would not plant trees there, but advance change as a state representative.
Michaud is running for his first legislative term in the upcoming November election. He said that when he delivers packages he gets to hear people’s concerns about the state of the economy and the fears of losing jobs.
“I am compelled to do something,” he said.
Self-described as a “political rookie” and a “workaholic,” Michaud said he is up to the challenge because he is passionate about everything he does. Case in point: American football.
In 2003, Michaud started the Champlain Valley Union High School football program and a year later the Chittenden South Supervisory Union youth football program for fifth through eighth graders.
“The first year we had 33 kids in the high school and 16 in the youth program,” he said. “There are over 400 kids now in these programs.”
Michaud said he recruited players, approached the school board, fund-raised and acted as head coach.
“The kids needed some guidance,” said Michaud, a father of two. “I am passionate about the sport at the youth, high school and professional level.”
Michaud would apply that same determination if elected to the Legislature. He would promote job creation and retention in Williston.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” Michaud said, adding that the Legislature should pay for projects it requires the town to complete. “We can’t afford any unfunded mandate from Montpelier.”
Growing jobs, managing fiscal responsibility and promoting small businesses are the most important issues Michaud said Vermont faces. The state needs to work out a way to balance the $112 million deficit and, as with creating jobs, there’s no single solution for that, he said. Promoting small businesses and allowing them access to capital to buy equipment or hire an employee would be his approach, Michaud said.
Every county has an economic development office; Michaud said they should be out making sure no businesses leave the state and attracting prospective ones.
“We should be going 90 miles north. I believe there are opportunities there,” he said, referring to Canadian businesses. “Look at Plattsburgh. They are doing very well.”
Continuing to develop the green industry is also important to Michaud. It would attract engineers, technicians and other workers, he said.
“The industry is booming. If we can understand it and share it with the rest of the country, there’s another opportunity,” he said.
On the issue of energy, Michaud said he has lost faith in Entergy Corp., owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, but would be open to dialogue to address problems if it’s decided the plant is safe.
“I don’t see a future energy plan without them. They generate a third of our power. What’s going to replace it? The green technology is not there yet,” he said.
If Vermont Yankee is not safe to operate, however, it has to go, Michaud said. He wants to leave that decision to the experts: the Vermont Public Service Board and the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We should be guided by them,” Michaud said.
He would also like to hear what townspeople have to say because it’s an important issue.
“I would have a meeting in the school to hear what people would want me to do. Tell me what to do and I’ll represent you in Montpelier,” he said.
Born and raised in South Burlington, Michaud said he moved to Williston for the first time in 1973, later moved, and returned to stay in 1988. Before opening his first business, Witness Tree Landscaping and Property Management, he worked for Koffee Kup Bakery Inc. and for Reprographics of New England, where as a general manager he said he learned all aspects of the business. That’s how he got the idea of becoming an entrepreneur.
“I can do that,” he said.
Michaud’s days are busy with delivering packages and returning home to do administrative work and campaigning. He said he goes out for two hours every night with the goal of knocking on 100 doors. If he gets elected, he will hire a driver and an assistant to run his business and then he will be a workaholic in Montpelier, he jokes.
“Nobody will out work me. I don’t do things for fun but because I’m passionate,” he concluded.