Bristol man stresses business in House bid

BRISTOL — Bristol Republican Fred Baser has been tending to his own local business for more than two decades.
With the support of voters, he hopes improve the lot of businesses statewide as a House member representing the Addison-4 district.
“I’d like to do my best to serve the state,” Baser said in an interview on Monday. “I think I could do a good job and have some good ideas.”
Baser must first face fellow Republicans John “Peeker” Heffernan of Bristol and Dan Nugent of Starksboro in an Aug. 24 GOP primary election. The two top vote-getters will move on to face incumbent Democrat Reps. Michael Fisher of Lincoln and Dave Sharpe of Bristol in the Nov. 2 general election. The two-seat Addison-4 district includes the towns of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro.
Baser needs little introduction to Bristol residents. He currently serves as town moderator, justice of the peace and chairs the local revolving loan fund committee. He is a past member and chairman of the Bristol selectboard and is a current, longtime member of the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center board. Baser also served with the Addison County Habitat for Humanity board for six years.
He has had an interest in serving in Montpelier, but professional, family and volunteer duties have precluded him for running for the Vermont House — until now.
Bristol Financial Services, the local business the Basers established 23 years ago, has grown to the point where Fred and Marian Baser have been able to add some new employees. That, in turn, has given Fred Baser more flexibility to pursue new interests.
“I had been encouraged in the past, formally and informally (to run for the House),” Baser said. “What has made 2010 different than other years is that my business has evolved to a point… where I was looking to take my foot off the pedal at work. There was just no way, owning your own business and working as hard as you do, to make it successful and grow while working for four-and-a-half months in the Legislature.”
Baser, a self-described moderate Republican, now believes he can spare that four-and-a-half months from his own business to go to Montpelier to try to shape statewide business policy.
“I don’t know for sure how many businesswomen and men are up in Montpelier — I think an awful lot of the time, they are in my situation; it’s a difficult thing to devote that time,” Baser said. “I think the state would benefit from having some folks with a good business background, and in my case, an entrepreneurial spirit.”
If elected, Baser said he would promote five main strategies for improving the business climate in Vermont:
• Boosting Internet and cell phone access.
“I realize every candidate has made it a priority, and it’s easier said than done in a rural state,” Baser said. “But certainly we need to do the best we can there, especially in population centers.”
• Tweaking the state’s permitting process.
“Act 250 is great; I like it,” Baser said. “Towns have the ability to create their own zoning.”
Still, Baser said the various permitting laws, from stormwater runoff to archaeological scrutiny, can at times make it too costly for worthwhile projects.
“All of these (rules) are very important and I wouldn’t necessarily say we should throw these things out, but you can always develop code in a way that something might happen more quickly and effectively so people who want to expand a plant or want to establish a retail operation might be able to do that and not have it cost so much or be discouraged,” Baser said.
• Promoting more moderately priced and affordable housing.
Baser said that when companies are looking at a spot in which to locate, one of the many factors they weigh is the availability of affordable housing.
“I think we would do well to make that happen a little bit more in Vermont,” Baser said.
• Reining in the tax burden.
“I think we’d do well to be mindful in how we tax people — property taxes in particular,” Baser said. He also voiced frustration that escalating taxes are precluding Vermonters from being able to afford properties — like rustic, lakeshore camps — that had previously been affordable for local families.
• Expanding vocational education.
Baser said the on-the-job skills derived from vocational education are becoming increasingly important in an economy in which unskilled high school graduates are finding it more difficult to find employment and a sustainable wage.
“Vocational education, given the diversity of courses that are offered, gives our young people the opportunity to either begin learning a skill, or get them well on their way,” he said.
And young adults will need every advantage in a state economy that Baser believes will probably be just as tough in 2011 as it is this year.
“I think the same kind of very difficult (state budget) decisions are going to have to be made next year,” Baser said.
He added lawmakers will also have to make tough decision on energy issues, including the future status of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Baser said the plant should obviously close if it is deemed to be unsafe, but said state officials should not shut the door on its ongoing operation if it can be proved safe.
“I don’t want it to be an emotional thing,” Baser said. “It should be factual.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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