DOVER -- Local entrepreneur Phil Gilpin Jr. says he is running for the Windham-Bennington District State Representative seat to have a conversation about economic development.
"I want to talk about economic development for the district. And part of what people talk about is the property tax and education. There are a few other ways I think we can work to improve the economy and that's what I'm in the race to talk about," he said.
As an Independent, Gilpin will be running for incumbent Democrat John Moran's seat along with Laura Sibilia, who is also running as an independent. The district covers Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro and part of Whitingham.
Although Gilpin has held positions such as business affairs analyst for HBO and executive director at the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, he says his main experience relevant to the campaign has to do with the four years he has spent living and working in Dover.
Since then, he has started the Green Mountain Adventure Challenge, which brings people to the Deerfield Valley to participate in a treasure hunt using local land to scatter clues. He also brought in the Independent Television and Film Festival, which previously was held in Los Angeles. The festival is expected to stay in Dover until 2017, when there will be an option to renew as long as there is not two consecutive years of audience decline.
Gilpin said his working day in and day out on the ground with business owners and friends to start building a new economy will be his main experience to draw on during the race.
In looking for ways economic development can be improved, Gilpin cited minimal budget for the state's Department of Tourism and Marketing. Through conversations with the department's commissioner Megan Smith, he learned of the restrictions and little resources with which the department has to work.
"Enhancing the department is something that needs to happen," Gilpin said.
Locally, Gilpin expressed a desire to see more of a generational relationship between business owners and residents. It was not an issue only having to do with age, he told the Reformer. He believes there is space for businesses of all types.
"That kind of natural regeneration is just not happening here right now," he said. "Without new business coming, it's a bleak economic outlook for the district."
Conversations at Selectboard and chamber meetings have provided Gilpin some insight on this matter. He said some people do not believe these efforts should be part of the economic development agenda while others support it.
Connecting people and businesses within the district is another goal for Gilpin. By having a district-wide conversation about economic development, he is hopeful that more can be achieved.
"We have four months to talk about what to do in the district," he said. "That's what gets me excited about being in the race."
Gilpin also plans to focus his energy on improving the district's quality of life by looking at increasing the amount of well-paying jobs as well as quality housing options.
He will not be raising any money or accepting any donations for his campaign.
"It's purely supposed to be a conversation," said Gilpin. "It's free for people to talk to friends and family about ideas. Word can spread quickly."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.