BRISTOL — They say the early bird catches the worm.
Fred Baser hopes that old adage applies to politics, as the Bristol Republican on Thursday became one of the first candidates to confirm a run for the Vermont House this November.
Baser, 66, will seek one of two seats in the Addison-4 House district that includes the towns of Bristol, Monkton, Starksboro and Lincoln. And he will have a running mate in that endeavor. Monkton Republican Valerie Mullin recently confirmed that she, too, will challenge for a seat in Addison-4. The two seats are currently held by longtime incumbent Democrats — Reps. Mike Fisher of Lincoln and David Sharpe of Bristol.
Baser, a veteran financial planner who established Bristol Financial Services in 1987, is no stranger to public service and political campaigns. He served nine years on the Bristol selectboard, six of them as chairman. He is a past, senior member of the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center board. He co-founded the Addison County Economic Development Corp. And he has volunteered his time with the United Way of Addison County, Habitat for Humanity of Addison County, and the Bristol revolving loan fund group.
Baser ran for an Addison-4 seat in 2010, finishing third in a four-person race, with 1,664 votes — around 230 behind Sharpe, who garnered the second-most votes.
Baser chose not to run again in 2012, but has since scaled back his professional duties to a point where he believes he can give his campaign an extra boost this year. He said he’d like to “give back” to his community through legislative service and believes he has the right qualities to do the job well.
“People have always thought I could be a good legislator, that I can communicate well, work well with other people and be a good problem-solver,” Baser said. “Also, I think my experience running a successful business, as well as the experience I have had in the public sector, could make me effective in what I see as some big problems and challenges that the state has.”
Those challenges, according to Baser, include stimulating economic development, containing increases in property and education taxes, and revisiting a state health care reform effort that he believes has been poorly launched and not well conceived.
Baser is concerned that as Vermont’s population gets older, its younger generation is leaving the state for more fertile economic pastures. He said the state must find a way to retain its young people and provide them with jobs to keep them here. That could be accomplished, according to Baser, by more aggressively recruiting businesses that are a good match for Vermont and offering them incentives to lay down roots in the Green Mountain State.
“There are things the state can do, but it also begins with a positive (business) culture,” Baser said.
He believes his business background could make him an effective participant in the state’s economic development planning.
At the same time, Baser believes Vermont must do more to hold the line on tax increases. He said he’s particularly concerned with Vermonters’ ability to cope with ever increasing property taxes and education taxes. State officials last week announced a potential hike in the statewide education property tax by five to seven cents.
Baser acknowledged the income-sensitivity provision in education tax cushions the blow on some, but said residents cannot keep absorbing education tax increases — particularly in an era when Vermont’s school-age population is in decline.
The state should also review its health care reform efforts, according to Baser, who noted recent difficulties in launching both the federal and statewide insurance plans. Some consumers have encountered computer registration glitches, while others are discovering the plans offered through Vermont Health Connect are more expensive than their current insurance options, Baser noted.
“People don’t understand (the state’s plan), and some were happy with the insurance they had,” Baser said.
Baser, as a financial planner, has routinely counseled businesses on their health insurance options, and believes that his experience would be valuable in Vermont’s ongoing health care debate — which could result in the state converting to a single-payer system within the next three years. Baser is not a fan of a single-payer system.
“I would work to revise the current (health care) strategy so that it is something that Vermont can afford and get right,” he said.
Two Addison-4 towns may soon be affected by a natural gas pipeline extension authorized from Colchester to Middlebury. The pipeline is slated to go through portions of Monkton, and Vermont Gas eventually plans to offer natural gas service to portions of Bristol. Baser said he supports the development of alternative, renewable energy sources but believes that until those sources become more prevalent and cost-effective, fossil fuels will necessarily remain part of society’s consumption portfolio. He said natural gas has proven to be one of the cleaner fossil fuels and the resource could help area residents reduce their heating bills while providing an effective economic development tool.
“Use it judiciously,” he said of fossil fuels. “Let’s wean ourselves from it over time.”
John Flowers is at [email protected].
Editor’s note: The Independent will profile Valerie Mullin in an upcoming edition.