Seventeen candidates are seeking six seats on the Board of Aldermen, one of the most crowded fields in recent memory.
Profiles of the candidates will appear in batches during the next three days, with the candidates appearing in the order they will be listed on the city ballot.
John Atwood, 38, is making his fourth attempt to join the board.
“I got really close last time, and I made a lot of good connections with a lot of potential voters,” he said. “I felt I had momentum from my last run and thought I should do it again.”
In the interim, Atwood said, he became a member of the board of the MINT, which provides added perspective on the city’s economic development potential. With the pandemic changing the way campaigns have to be conducted, Atwood said he made a campaign video and has participated in phone banking. Moreover, he is part of “Rutland Forward,” a slate of challengers running cooperatively.
Atwood said his day job, getting software packages to work together for Casella Waste Systems, gives him experience in understanding complex, interconnected systems.
“My overriding consideration for any decision is going to be how it impacts people,” he said. “One key to growth in Rutland is going to be the people here. ... That’s what we need to focus on with every decision.”
Rick Battles, 60, recently retired after 40 years with the Department of Public Works. He spent 18 of those years working part-time at the fire department. He said a number of people approached him about running post-retirement. This is his first bid for public office.
“After being there 40 years, seeing a lot of what went on with the budget and stuff, I feel I can give a lot back,” he said. “I want to give a lot back. ... I don’t have a lot of experience, but I know public safety from being on the fire department for a while. I think I can bring a lot back to keep the city moving forward.”
Battles said while candidates often make all sorts of promises, he wanted to be straightforward about the fact he did not have any specific solutions lined up for the city’s problems.
“I wish I could tell you,” he said. “I don’t know. I would be willing to work with people and other aldermen. I just want to earn the people’s trust.”
John Cioffi Jr., 34, owns Black Dog Guns and Shooting Supplies and co-owns a Cape Cod Potato Chips franchise. He made an unsuccessful challenge to Rep. Mary Howard, D-Vt., in last year’s general election.
“I’ve been living in Rutland my whole life,” he said. “I’ve seen the very, very high ups and the very. very low downs. I think the city’s going in the right direction, but we need a little more help to the business owners to right the ship. ... We spend a lot of money trying to fix problems that don’t get fixed. When they’re constantly fixing a piece of equipment, they should just replace it.”
Cioffi said the key to getting more businesses in the city is to investigate why so many properties are vacant — whether rents are too high, regulations too onerous or some other problem.
“There’s a lot of legwork that’s going to take a long time, but once we get to that spot, it’s going to be good for Rutland,” he said. Cioffi attracted some attention during the summer for a handful of social-media posts, including one on the page of another gun dealer suggesting they try out a particular bullet in New York City and then another from his company’s website just before the Black Lives Matter protest in Rutland, in which he listed several of the types of ammunition he had available and added “Stock up tonight, the protesters are coming.”
“It was a bad judgment on my part,” he said. “Who knows what could’ve happened at that protest if it had turned violent. I didn’t want to see my city burn down like so many others. It was a bad post.”
Chad Snyder-DeAngelis, 37, works in sales. This is his first run for public office.
“I’m just really tired with the direction our city’s going in,” he said. “I’d like to see more done to help the homeless and those who are disenfranchised with our local government.”
Snyder-DeAngelis said he wants to see the city working with churches and nonprofits on affordable housing and to be more directly involved in programs like Everybody Eats. He said the city has to figure out how to create better-paying jobs.
“We’re going to have to find a way to start more programs to help people because there just isn’t a lot available,” he said.
Snyder-DeAngelis said he has owned a small business and has a degree in communication and a background in journalism and political science.
“I’ve got a lot of tools in my bag to get people working together,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest problems in this city. There’s not a consensus on what Rutland needs or how the path forward should go.”
Alderman Tom DePoy is running for his eighth term on the board. In his most recent term, DePoy said he was proudest to have been involved in the city’s purchase of the College of St. Joseph gym, which has been renamed the Rutland Recreation Community Center. City voters approved a $1.45 million bond for the building in November, though the city had been leasing it for a year at that point.
“It’s already proved its weight in gold as a venue for high school basketball programs last year,” he said. “Before corona, there were so many people using that facility. Even after corona, there’s been so many people using it. It’s been a godsend for the city.”
During the next two years, DePoy said, the Board of Aldermen will need to pay close attention to how the $5 million paving bond that voters approved last year is managed.
“There’s a good plan from the Department of Public Works, but it’s up to us to monitor it,” he said. “This coming year, there’s going to be a lot of work done.”
DePoy said there’s still work to do on the Dunklee Pond dam removal, and the board needs to make sure it doesn’t fall by the wayside.
With voters galvanized about the city School Board abandoning the “Rutland Raiders” nickname and associated Native American imagery, DePoy said more questions should go before city voters, especially when it comes to the city’s “culture.”
“I think if the Board of Aldermen had put that on the ballot and people had their say, it would have been better for the community,” he said.
Mike Doenges, 40, works in technology sales for Cisco. This is his first time running for public office.
“Growing up in the Rutland area, I understood Rutland was the heart of it all, even though I was a Mendon kid,” he said. “When we moved back in 2016, I specifically chose Rutland because I wanted to be involved in how the city affects the region.”
Doenges said Rutland has a lot to offer, but it needs to find a way to sustain growing families. To accomplish that, he said Rutlanders need to discuss how they want to identify as a city. He said his focus as an alderman would be to help find a vision for Rutland and crafting a plan around it.
Doenges said his career has frequently involved “public sector innovation” experiences that would serve him well in city government, such as a recent public WiFi project in Hartford, Conn., that taught him a lot about how cities work.
“We may not need citywide WiFi, but having a smarter city makes us better at delivering clean water into people’s homes,” he said. “When you tie information and technology together, you can start to really make some decisions that are not based on emotion, but on information.”