Rutland chooses mostly incumbents for board of aldermen

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(Host) Six challengers were on the ballot, but Rutland City voters chose all but one incumbent for their board of aldermen.

Voters also said they want to change the way they elect their local leaders.

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck) Henry Heck was the sole challenger to win a seat on Rutland’s board of Aldermen. The local restaurant manager says he entered the race because he was tired of the lack of cohesion on the board. He says the city has some serious financial challenges ahead and he hopes to be a voice for the taxpayer.

(Heck) “To be someone who’s going to ask questions, whether they’re tough questions or not, but to get the answers we’re looking for to move the city forward.”

(Keck) Five other challengers were shut out of the race. Incumbent Roy Thomas received the most votes, followed by incumbents David Allaire, Sharon Davis, and William Gillam Junior. Chirstopher Louras beat fellow incumbent Charles Romeo for a one year seat on the board. Rutland City’s board of Aldermen has made headlines recently for contentious meetings and infighting. Public disclosures of the city’s outdated accounting system and some significant cash shortfalls have embarrassed local officials. Speaking at a victory celebration last night, Board President Sharon Davis says despite the difficulties, she thinks the message from voters was clear.

(Davis) “I feel that people had concerns about what had been going on in the treasurer’s office and what was happening in the city. But I think they left the incumbents in place because they need some experience to move us through it. I think that’s what the vote is showing.”

(Keck) While voters tended to stay with familiar candidates, they narrowly approved a nonbinding ballot item to change the way those officials are elected – from the current at large system to a ward based method. Rutland resident Sharon Rabideau says if two aldermen were elected from each of the city’s four wards, balanced representation would be assured.

(Rabideau) “Because the ward people will be looking out for the specific interests of the people they represent. And that’s very important.”

(Keck) But critics argue that ward elections would cause turf battles on the board and potentially give too much power to the mayor. Because the ballot item was nonbinding, both the local board of Alderman and the state legislature would have to approve any change. Alderman Bill Gillam Jr. says that’s not likely.

(Gillam election) “We were looking for a majority vote to see what the people wanted to do. So we have to go back to the drawing board and see if the people want something else.”

(Keck) But Gillam adds that discussions on the issue are by no means over. Another controversial ballot item – to allow Rutland residents and not just the city school board – to vote on school budgets was voted down.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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