Politics

Rutland mayor seeking a 4th term with public safety, housing in mind

Rutland Mayor David Allaire, who battled cancer two years ago, is the second person to declare his candidacy to lead Vermont’s fifth-largest municipality. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Two years after battling cancer, Rutland Mayor David Allaire is seeking a fourth term in office on a platform that includes public safety and housing.

Allaire said he decided to run again as chief executive of Vermont’s fifth-largest municipality to continue some “unfinished business,” knowing he had the support of the majority of Rutland residents.

“I’m really excited to be able to offer two more years of service to the city,” Allaire, 66, said on Monday. “I feel great. I'm motivated to come every day to work.”

He is the second person to enter the mayoral race, which will be decided on Town Meeting Day in March. The president of Rutland’s Board of Aldermen, Mike Doenges, launched his candidacy in September. Candidates do not run with a party affiliation.

In a video posted on social media on Friday, Allaire spoke about his re-election bid, some of his accomplishments, and his priorities if he wins a new term.

With the Rutland City Police Department recording this year an increase in violent crimes, such as robbery and aggravated assault, Allaire said public safety was at the top of his list. He said the police department, which has been dealing with an officer shortage, continues to aggressively recruit members.

Allaire said the city is also advocating for changing the state’s bail laws to prevent repeat offenders from easily getting back on the streets. “We need to lock up the bad guys and appropriate more funding for mental health and substance abuse issues, which we all know underlie many criminal behaviors,” he said in the video.

As people around the state continue to grapple with a tight residential market, Allaire said housing is another important issue he wants to confront. That includes working with the state government to find long-term shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness and have been housed in Rutland motels, a program that is expected to end in March.

“It's the state that needs to step up and work with our community to find a solution to the homeless population when this program ends,” he told VTDigger. “We just can't do it alone. We haven't got the time or the funds or the wherewithal.”

On infrastructure development, the projects that Allaire said he wants to implement include the redesign of Rutland’s Center Street, a key downtown commercial area.

He also brought up a previous city proposal to build a hotel on Center Street, on the site of what used to be the Berwick Hotel and is now a parking lot. The developer halted plans to build a four- or five-story hotel at the location in 2020, citing the adverse economic climate due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Rutland Herald had reported.

Allaire believes this is the right time to resurrect the project, given what he said is demand — but lack of supply — for downtown hotel rooms. “This just seems to be the right time to be able to move that project forward,” he said, “and I think market studies will bear that out.”

When asked how his battle with esophageal cancer has affected his work, Allaire said it has given him resolve to do the best job he can. “You start considering that, you know, you're not going to be on this earth forever. And you want to make sure that every day that you put your best foot forward,” he said.

He is best qualified to continue serving as Rutland mayor, Allaire said, because of his contacts throughout the city and in Montpelier, his accessibility to his constituents and his accomplishments in his six years in the mayor’s office.

Besides infrastructure projects such as new public swimming pools and a new home for the Rutland Recreation Community Center, Allaire said he has been able to bring different segments of the community together amid differences.

Before being elected mayor in 2017, Allaire had been a Republican state representative for six years and a member of the Board of Aldermen for 19 years.

Doenges, the other mayoral candidate and current president of the Board of Alderman, said City Hall can do better in areas such as purposeful planning, innovation and collaboration. 

He said revitalizing Rutland — which was the state’s second most populous municipality throughout the 1900s — requires longer-range planning. His focus is on reversing the decadeslong population decline, creating more housing and attracting new businesses.

Doenges said he believes his candidacy declaration over the summer prompted Allaire to make an announcement about his own run earlier than he usually does.

“I've been kind of putting myself out there and really letting the citizens know who I am,” Doenges said when asked to comment on Allaire’s candidacy. “I think he realized that perhaps, maybe, he needed to get out and let people know that he was running too.”

He said the residents of Rutland can only benefit from the increased public activity by him and Allaire as the campaign season gets underway.

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Tiffany Tan

About Tiffany

Tiffany Tan is VTDigger's Southern Vermont reporter. Before joining VTDigger, she covered cops and courts for the Bennington Banner from 2018 to 2021. Prior to that, Tiffany worked for the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota and spent more than 10 years working for newspapers and television stations in Manila, Singapore and Beijing.

Email: ttan@vtdigger.org

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