Rutland Aldermen Four make case for board
(Editor’s note: This is the second of three stories profiling candidates for Rutland aldermen. Twelve people are competing for six seats. The first four candidates were profiled Monday and profiles of the remaining four will run Wednesday.)
By Gordon Dritschilo
Rutland’s aldermanic candidates bring a variety of ideas with them about what the board can do for the city.
Sherri Durgin-Campbell, 62, has a mediation practice and works for a subsidized housing management company. She made an unsuccessful bid for one of Rutland’s House seats in November.
“It looked like there was going to be a lack of candidates and I think it’s important to have choices,” she said, adding that she was delighted with how many choices voters will have. “My biggest concern has been all along that we need to do a better job marketing the city so we accentuate the positive.”
Durgin-Campbell said she supports expanding tax stabilization programs and that the city also needs to expand its efforts to prevent crime. Toward the latter end, she said she could see a role for the “community mediation” program promoted by the Community Justice Center.
The program, she said, offers a way for residents to work through ongoing disputes about property lines or similar issues, keeping them from escalating to the point where the police get involved. She said the board can encourage city departments to use the program and citizens to volunteer for training as mediators.
“Obviously, it would be nice if I could ask for some money for that program, but that may not be able to happen,” she said.
Melinda Humphrey, 31, works for Green Mountain Power handling customer programs like Smart Power. This is her first run for public office.
Since becoming a homeowner in Rutland, Humphrey said she has been learning how the city works.
“I realized I’m a voice not currently represented on the board, being a young professional female, and decided it was time to get involved,” she said.
Humphrey said she thinks the board needs to focus on neighborhood stabilization and that she likes what she has been hearing from new Police Chief James Baker. She also said developing the city’s “recreation sector” was important and that investment in recreation creates opportunities in other sectors.
She also said the board needs to get away from a focus on budget cuts and try to find more revenue.
“We need to invest to a point where we’re stable and not always backpedaling,” she said.
Humphrey said that while some might see her relative newness — she arrived in the Rutland area six years ago — as a weakness, she considers it a strength because she lacks the negative, jaded perspective she sees in some people who have been here longer.
“I see a lot of positives in Rutland,” she said.
Jon Kiernan, 53, runs a property management business. He is completing his first term on the board.
“I’ve learned that first appearances aren’t always what they seem,” he said. “I went in there thinking it would be nice to do this, nice to do that. It all makes sense from a distance. Once you get in there and realize there’s a state mandate, a federal mandate, a charter issue, a contractual issue — it was very enlightening.”
Kiernan said he thinks the police department is going in the right direction with the new chief and that the city needs to prioritize and continue to repair its roads and bridges and water and sewer lines.
“I’m kind of a simple guy, a basic guy,” he said. “I believe those are the basics and the aesthetics come after the basics are taken care of.”
Kiernan said he was running on his experience as an alderman, a business owner and a father.
Ed Larson, 65, served two years on the board before deciding not to run again last year. He cited health issues at the time, but says he’s ready to come back to work for his community.
“I felt I can still return to the city some of what it did for me,” said Larson, who served Rutland for 27 years as a police officer.
Larson said he supports the tax stabilization efforts the board has pushed in the last year, including the one on the March ballot, but believes they could go even further. He said residential tax stabilization should be available to landlords as well as homeowners, and that the city should find a way to stabilize water and sewer fees as well.
On the subject of water and sewer fees, Larson suggested that the recent drop in water usage should justify a cut in personnel at the water department, though he said such a cut could be achieved by attrition rather than layoffs.
Larson said he has “all the faith in the world” in Chief Baker and that he would like to see Rutland adopt a citywide text message alert system like the ones used at many colleges. More broadly, he wants to bring the public in to cooperate more with the police department.