By Luke Baynes
Four candidates will battle for Williston’s two seats in the Vermont House of Representatives in the upcoming election season.
Democrats Terry Macaig and Jim McCullough are the incumbents.
Republicans Jay Michaud and Thomas Nelson are the challengers.
Macaig has served two terms; McCullough has served five.
Michaud made an unsuccessful House bid in 2010; Nelson is making his debut to Vermont politics.
The Observer recently spoke separately to the four candidates about their respective candidacies and the current state of the state.
TERRY MACAIG (DEMOCRAT)
Macaig was born in Schenectady, N.Y., and has lived in Williston since 1966. A 10-year veteran of the Williston Selectboard, he retired from the Vermont Department of Health in 2000, but has continued his longtime service as town health officer in Williston.
Macaig views health care reform as a pivotal issue in the election season.
“I think that no matter what party we’re in, we recognize that the health care system is broken. The big question is how do we fix it?” Macaig said. “I’m a supporter of a single-payer system. We have many single-payer systems right now. We have Medicare, which is a single-payer system. The state employees’ health plan is a single-payer system, as is the teachers’ plan.”
Macaig also plans to work on job creation if re-elected.
“While our unemployment rate is low in the state, we still need to create the jobs that keep our kids in-state if possible,” Macaig said. “The private sector is the one that’s going to produce the jobs, and I think state government is the one that needs to give them the stimulus to do that, whether it’s tax breaks or other stimulus packages that we can provide without severely affecting the state budget.”
JIM MCCULLOUGH (DEMOCRAT)
McCullough is a Willistonian through and through, born and raised on the Governor Chittenden Road property that has been in his family for generations. An avid outdoorsman, McCullough and his wife, Lucy, have run Catamount Outdoor Family Center on their property since 1978.
McCullough said he’s been a proponent of health care reform since day one of his first term as state rep.
“Ten years ago, when candidate Jim first announced his plan, one of the things I said I stood for was quality, affordable, accessible health care for all Vermonters that was not contingent on employment,” McCullough said.
An opponent of Vermont Yankee’s nuclear power plant, McCullough said he believes that the state needs to continue increasing renewable energy options.
“When I was on the (Natural Resources and Energy) committee, I was the single person who got the net metering that we have today going,” McCullough said. “I could not get it in the bill in our committee, but what I did get in the bill is we would get the Public Service Board to look at it. So now we have an amazing net metering thing, and that’s very much helped the expansion of primarily solar in the state of Vermont.”
JAY MICHAUD (REPUBLICAN)
A Burlington native, Michaud has lived in Williston since 1973. In addition to his current position on the Williston Selectboard, Michaud is an independent service provider for FedEx and co-owns and operates Legends Eastside café in Milton.
Michaud said that if he is elected he will use his small business experience to create jobs and bring fiscal balance to Montpelier.
“I think I’m a contemporary. I know what’s going on. I hear what Vermonters are talking about. The business community is still concerned. They’re concerned about the economic climate and what’s happening in Montpelier,” Michaud said. “For a lot of the folks that I serve food to at the restaurant, it’s about economics and job security, and they’re looking for jobs for their kids. I really know how to create jobs, and I certainly know how to do budgets and make some hard decisions. You have to do that every day as a small business owner.”
Michaud added that working to improve the current business climate in Vermont would help to ensure the viability of the state economy for future generations.
“I really believe we in Vermont are exporting our biggest asset every year, which are our college graduates,” Michaud said. “They graduate and they have no work. They’re our future, and we’re letting them go.”
THOMAS NELSON (REPUBLICAN)
Nelson grew up in Barre and has lived in Williston for the past 20 years. A retired Vermont State Police captain, Nelson currently works as a senior analyst with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Nelson said that if elected, he would bring a common man perspective to Montpelier.
“I think there’s a lot of people who are frustrated with government nationally, and even at the state level, and they often feel that the people that get involved and get elected, too many of them have agendas or are out for some sort of personal gain,” Nelson said. “I’m a working person and a family man, and someone who cares about his community and his state and his country. I’m also a thorough person and a very experienced investigator, so I think I can figure out the truth and get a lot of good information and facts in that process so that good legislation occurs.”
He said a key area he would investigate is the taxation of small businesses.
“We need to encourage businesses to add more jobs, either through incentives or an evaluation of how high taxes are that a business will face trying to expand or locate here to begin with,” Nelson said.