Michael Doenges became board president after a year as an alderman, and now he wants to become mayor after a year as board president.
Doenges formally announced his candidacy Friday, delivering remarks at a spot overlooking the city from Campbell Road.
“I wanted to find a way that would both utilize my skills and experience and allow me to actively demonstrate my love for this city and its people,” he said. “After serious thought, discussions with my family and encouragement from Rutland City residents, I decided that running for mayor is the best opportunity to dedicate my full time and attention to the city that I love.”
Doenges appears to have at least two opponents.
Mayor David Allaire said he has not decided yet but that he is probably running.
“I’m certainly leaning that way, absolutely, yes,” he said. “From my perspective, it’s a little early to be announcing, or even considering anything about the campaign six months out. I’m busy running the city and getting ready for the budget. The campaign will happen in January and February, as far as I’m concerned.”
The third hat in the ring belongs to Alderman Christopher Ettori. Ettori was one of six people who tried to unseat Allaire last year, coming in second place.
“While I think it was too early to announce a mayoral campaign, yes, I am planning on running in March,” Ettori said. “City governance is my passion.”
Doenges was introduced by Kim Levins, who said they got to know each other while their wives were campaigning for school board. Doenges is married to Sara Atkins Doenges; Levins to Marybeth Lennox-Levins.
“Spending time with Mike professionally and personally, it didn’t take long for me to recognize his genuine care for people,” Levins said. “He’s always willing to help a friend or make a new one. ... He’s an optimist, but is constantly pragmatic. If you’re looking for a data-driven problem-solver with a determined and friendly disposition, Mike is the leader you’re waiting for.”
Doenges’ family moved to the area when he was a child. He grew up in Mendon, moved away but then returned, settling in the city in 2016. He said that while he has only been in city government a short time, his work in technology sales has given him a close-up view of how municipalities function, as well as provided him with management experience.
Doenges said the city need a “goal post” and population growth is the most important goal for Rutland right now, noting that while Vermont’s population has almost doubled in the past half-century, Rutland’s has slowly but steadily declined.
He noted that the area where they were standing was ripe for development, but developers are hesitant to put money into a community that isn’t growing.
“We need to get our city to a place where we are effortlessly welcoming to people who want to move and build a life here,” he said.
Toward that end, Doenges said one of his priorities as mayor would be to create a city master plan with population targets. He said he also would aim to make City Hall more accessible and user-friendly and improve the city government’s record on “follow-up and follow-through.” He said he would aim to do more outreach and long-term planning than the current administration.
“I think a lot of what you see right now is the status quo,” he said. “When you’re in the status quo, people forget about gravity. Gravity pushes the status quo down. We don’t need to make sweeping changes. We just need an uphill target.”