Brittany Cavacas, Independent, from Rutland City

Why are you running this year?

I decided to run in this year’s race because I am tired of the division between parties. I am someone that sees gray in a world of black and white. It is time that we work as a team to make this county and state better. Also, I want to bring our area into 2020, finding a balance between our beautiful state with the ability to be affordable not just for out of state residents but locals.

What's the biggest challenge facing Vermonters?

We have a few challenges that we are facing right now. One with the COVID-19 and all the financial burdens that it has caused our residence but also as a state and our funding. We MUST find a way to balance the budget that works and helps us without tax hikes that make it unaffordable to live here. I feel that we should look into additional revenue streams that can help offset deficits in our state without needing additional tax hikes. Some examples include legal mobile sports bettings and a legal marijuana marketplace. Another challenge is the lack of keeping our Vermonters here and not leaving for an area that can offer them more and is affordable. We must realize that our aging population with not be able to carry the state; therefore, it is our job to bring people back.

What steps need to be taken as Vermont's economy recovers from the effects COVID-19?Although we have done a good job in unprecedented circumstances, we need to help those small businesses that have seen a decline and are struggled to stay open. We rely on those, and we need to make it a priority so that these small businesses can come back and succeed. We also need to work with those families that have lost their jobs and are struggling to keep food on the table. Students are both home, and in-person causes even more of a struggle.

What are your top priorities?

My top priorities are working on a sustainable budge going forward, the health care reimbursement rates for Nursing homes, assisted/residential care, AFC, and other facilities of health care, affordability for our next generations. My experience in health care administration is helpful for these challenges in our state.

What distinguishes you from other candidates?

I am different from my fellow candidates because I am a new voice that can see the division and how it is not working. I am someone that wants to work with both sides to do what is right for our citizens, not just for our parties. We are more than a Republican and Democrat; we are Vermonters, and we need to come together. Lastly, I have a direct connection with our youth through my experience as a Rutland City School board commissioner and the founder of a youth/female empowerment nonprofit called We Are Girls With Dreams.

Brian Collamore, Republican, from Rutland Town

Why are you running this year?

I am running because I want to continue to help the citizens of Rutland County have direct access to their state government. I have tried in the six years I have been in Montpelier to be available for constituents who have issues navigating the various agencies and departments of government. If someone reaches out because they are having a problem, they deserve to get an answer. Whether by email, phone or just seeing me on the street, it is my job to help get them answers. I also want to help our local businesses thrive. The locally owned businesses in Rutland County are our backbone for good jobs. If you are reading this and own a local business, I want you to know you have a friend in the Legislature.

What's the biggest challenge facing Vermonters?

The economy. Everything else flows from it. Without a vibrant economy, Vermonters cannot have the security a good job can offer which translates into feeling good about their situation. Having that confidence is crucial in their spending decisions. When people feel secure, they tend to be comfortable about buying which keeps the cycle going. Our nonprofit community also benefits greatly from donations when the economy is booming. In addition, without a thriving business climate, the State will not have sufficient revenue to continue to operate at a level that benefits all its citizens.

What steps need to be taken as Vermont's economy recovers from the effects COVID-19?

I think we must allow businesses to fully open up again. Vermonters have done an exceptional job practicing safe methods to not spread the virus but, in the meantime, we have put many area businesses in peril. Every day that goes by without a business being open means a greater chance that business will not be able to reopen. And every business that does not open up again means lost jobs. Our local businesses need to be appreciated for all they do. Please continue to support each one of them by buying locally.

What are your top priorities?

At the time of these questions, the Vermont House has just passed a $7.1 billion budget which will fund the last three quarters of fiscal 2021. This also exhausts the last of the COVID relief money. I will support the budget because of the nearly $24 million for our state colleges, an additional $88 million for grants for businesses still struggling, and $5 million to help our ski areas put safety measures in place so they can open this winter. But there is also sobering news on the horizon. While the $7.1 billion budget was passed nearly unanimously in the House, it was done with a surplus which was not expected. In fact, Vermont was able to plug a $180 million hole in next year’s budget without major cuts in government programs and services largely because of unexpected higher revenues from a very good 2019. Obviously, that will not be the case with revenues from 2020. As we look ahead to fiscal 2022, an expected $100 million loss in tax revenue with no surplus looms. This will call for a major effort to keep spending in line or face what could be substantial increases in taxes.

What distinguishes you from other candidates?

When someone contacts me, I answer them. I try to listen to each constituent and either call them back or email them. We may find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, but I believe they are entitled to have someone hear them. If we disagree, they also deserve to know why I feel the way I do. I now have six years experience in the Legislature and I think that gives me somewhat of a head start in knowing how bills are crafted, introduced, referred to committee, debated and then either passed and signed into law or not. That experience also can translate into knowing which Senator or Representative to talk to about an issue. It can also help me get an answer for a constituent from department heads and agency secretaries.

Larry Courcelle, Democrat, from Mendon

Why are you running this year?

What got me interested in running for the Rutland County Senate was the debacle with the Vermont State College System and the financial situation with Northern Vermont University and primarily how this situation may affect Castleton University. I serve as vice-president of the Castleton University Alumni Board of Directors.

What's the biggest challenge facing Vermonters?

Economic recovery related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What steps need to be taken as Vermont's economy recovers from the effects COVID-19?

Lawmakers need to continue with the process of allocating funding primarily to individuals, working families and small businesses. Support and encourage the public to buy local. Support manufacturing jobs and technical firms that may want to get established in Vermont. Address the youth retention problem so we can have the qualified workforce to move forward. Support the training of a work force in the various trades that are needed for the economy to grow. Work on attracting and retaining businesses in Vermont. Focus on the everyday Vermonter who are the backbone of our state.

What are your top priorities?

Economic recovery; support the Vermont State College System; climate change; youth retention; aging of our population.

What distinguishes you from other candidates?

I have years of experience on multiple boards and use common sense and voice of reason in finding common ground. I have served on the following boards: Mendon Select Board for 6 years and was chair for 2 years. During my first year, Tropical Storm Irene caused over $2 million of damage to the infrastructure of town roads and bridges. I was part of a team in Mendon in the recovery effort by making decisions on the spot and working with FEMA and the ANR. I am in my 20th year on the Rutland Regional Planning Commission representing Mendon and I served five years on the George D. Aiken Resource Conservation and Development Council. I am in my 38th year on the Mendon Recreation Committee. I served seven years on the Rutland County Recreation District board. Rutland Free Library Board of Trustees for 6 years and 2 years as president. Team guide for the Vermont Envirothon. Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) served as president. Vice President of the Castleton University Alumni Board of Directors.

Cheryl M Hooker, Democrat, from Rutland City

Why are you running this year?

I’m running this year to continue working on issues related to COCID-19 and to serve Rutland County in moving forward in this new era.

What's the biggest challenge facing Vermonters?

The biggest challenge facing Vermonters right now is how to weather and emerge from the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic. How this affects us depends are who we are: businesses need help to stay open during the COVID crisis; families need help where incomes have been lost or reduced; individuals and families need affordable, quality housing and childcare. But COVID isn’t the only challenge we face: we have social justice and public safety issues; aging demographics and declining workforce; climate and human rights issues.

What steps need to be taken as Vermont's economy recovers from the effects COVID-19?

We have to work together. I serve on the Economic Development Committee that has been involved in the distribution of millions of dollars from the federal government appropriated to Vermont through the Coronavirus Relief Funds to help businesses and individuals recover from the pandemic. The programs being set up are intended to keep our economy running, but if we use these funds wisely, we can have lasting effects on our state’s economy. We also need to be vigilant about keeping the virus contained. We have to continue to follow the guidelines of the CDC and the Vt Health Dept. and be sensible about re-opening our economy to avoid having an outbreak that could shut us down again.

What are your top priorities?

I want to see the people of Rutland County and the State come together to make it possible for everyone to prosper. We need to build our workforce by assuring that our young Vermonters have the opportunity to gain degrees or credentials in various fields through a sustainable, high quality education system and workforce training. Affordable housing, quality child care and elder care are issues that need to be addressed in Rutland County and throughout the state.

What distinguishes you from other candidates?

I’m a mother, a grandmother, a former teacher and I’ve served in local and state government having been a member of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, the House of Representatives and the Senate. My experiences on a multitude of committees including Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs; Institution; Health Care; Justice Oversight; Judicial Nominating; Vermont Economic Progress Council have given me the opportunity learn about the needs of Vermonters and to work to direct resources to the County.

Richard Lenchus, Independent, from Benson

My main issue is health care for school children. I am also concerned about veterans, seniors and the disabled fighting big pharma for lower prices. Other issues I will address: police, jobs, and growing Vermont into the beautiful, historic state everyone sees when they hear "Moonlight in Vermont." What makes me different is as a senior citizen I have been a U.S. Marine Corps jet plane captain Vietnam era. I am a grandmaster and recognized founding father of American Martial Arts. I am an architect, building schools for eight years, and was a caregiver for a disabled senior 19 years. I am also a decorated auxiliary cop.

Michael Shank, Independent, Brandon

Why are you running this year?

I love this community and I want to give back and serve the community in every way I can. I see a need to strengthen our ties and bonds so that we’re more resilient and more protected from future shocks that could divide us or hurt us. Whether it’s more divisive politics, another pandemic, another recession, or another hurricane, I want us to be stronger than ever before. I see the fractures widening and our foundation eroding. In response, I want to build a resilient Rutland County that makes certain our physical infrastructure, as well as our economic and social infrastructure, is immune to further attack. My hope is that my day job, working with counties and cities throughout the world that are prioritizing resilience, as well as my previous work experience in conflict zones globally, will be helpful here in Rutland.

What's the biggest challenge facing Vermonters?

Too many people are being left behind. Too many people are struggling to make ends meet. Too many people are barely surviving. I want to prioritize these challenges. I want to do everything in my power as state senator to address the real and urgent needs facing our community. I want to make sure that the basics for a happy and healthy life – housing, health insurance, healthy food, heat, public transit options, clean energy – are affordable and accessible to everyone. No one left behind. That’s the only way. If we do that, then we ensure everyone is set up for success, that we’re resilient when the next shock comes – whether political, economic or environmental – and that we’re building a stronger Vermont community every single day with every single policy. That’s the lens I’ll use in Montpelier.

What steps need to be taken as Vermont's economy recovers from the effects COVID-19?

There’s the obvious short-term grants and loan assistance that are essential, which the state has been good about supporting, as well as help for those newly unemployed because of COVID-19. Additionally, the all-hands-on-deck approach by Vermont agencies and community organizations to make sure every resident and every household in our community is fed, housed, and heated as we approach the winter is critical. But it’s the long-term agenda that we need to lock in place now as well. Do we have the support mechanisms in place for the leaders and businesses of tomorrow to be sustainable through the next shock? That means that the skills-building, new workforce training, mentorships and apprenticeships, collaboration across educational institutions, and innovation hub opportunities are established now for Rutland residents. That means we’re marketing and packaging the beauty of Rutland County in new ways to new homeowners, new investments, and new businesses for soon-to-be Rutland residents. That means we’re staying ahead of the migration trends coming out of the big cities, in response to COVID-19, and we’re capitalizing on these moves by not only welcoming the change but intentionally directing those new investments and newcomers to constructively engage in the new Rutland economy.

What are your top priorities?

First and foremost, my main priority is to explore and exploit every opportunity – through state, federal and private support – to make sure Rutland residents are getting everything they need to recover from COVID-19. All the aspects of the American dream need to be affordable and accessible to all of us, whether it’s rental housing or homeownership, healthy food, heating, health insurance or how we get to and from school and work. Currently, that’s out of reach for many in Rutland County and I’m committed to making sure it’s within reach.

Second, I’m going to focus on ensuring that our physical infrastructure, as well as our economic and social infrastructure, can withstand the next shock. There are plenty of shocks coming our way – economic, political, social, and environmental. Recessions, pandemics, partisan politics, extreme weather, and more. Our buildings, bridges and roads need to be able to withstand these shocks. Our businesses and schools need to withstand these shocks. Our community organizations, volunteer groups, and social networks need to withstand these shocks.

Third, I’m going to harness my global and national networks to market the beauty and bounty of Rutland County so that we all benefit from new investment, new opportunity, new business and new renters and homeowners. That’s how we lower taxes for every household and provide new resources to benefit every household. Rutland County is gorgeous and people understandably want to move here. But let’s control that process. Let’s attract people who want to move here and be ahead of that curve, not behind it, involving them immediately upon arrival in the recovery and rebuild that’ll make Rutland more resilient.

What distinguishes you from other candidates?

I was born and raised in an Amish-Mennonite community that was committed to a strong service ethic and to serving all members of the community. That was our social safety net. We took care of each other. When times were tough, the community was there for us. I think about service every day. How can I help my neighbors, my town, my community, my county, and my country? What can I do today to help someone?

I’ve got policymaking experience in the U.S. Congress, conflict experience in war zones, diplomatic experience at the United Nations, teaching experience in graduate schools across this country, farming experience on my animal sanctuary, and planning experience on the Rutland Regional Planning Commission and Brandon’s Planning Commission, where I serve as vice-chair and chair, respectively.

I’m 100% committed to engaging civilly and diplomatically throughout my entire senate service. We need more civility and more compassion in our conversations, communication, and handling of conflicts. I’m 100% committed to listening to everyone who wants to talk about the future of Rutland County. We need more involvement by all stakeholders, not just those with the most money or the loudest bullhorns. I’m 100% committed to bettering all lives, not just some, and making sure everyone is thriving in Rutland County. That’s my commitment.

Joshua Terenzini, Republican, Rutland Town

Why are you running this year?

I am running for the Vermont State Senate to bring a commonsense approach of leadership to Montpelier. Our county and state face unprecedented challenges due to the negative financial position that we are in due to the pandemic. My ability to create positive change, collaborate with others, and a proven track record of effective leadership are all reasons I am running. Tough, methodical decisions will need to be made and I am prepared to do what's right for Rutland County.  

What's the biggest challenge facing Vermonters?

Without question, the toughest immediate challenge that we as Vermonters face is the huge economic and budgetary shortfall we are up against due to the pandemic. Our small businesses have suffered an unimaginable amount due to the lack of commerce and tourism. This virus will have long lasting effects and we need leaders who are prepared to mitigate spending, loosen the regulatory process for starting new businesses, and help boost tourism in a safe manner.

What steps need to be taken as Vermont's economy recovers from the effects COVID-19?

Federal dollars that the state receives due to the virus must help support our small businesses. We cannot afford to have more employers close their doors because of this pandemic. We need to help streamline our permitting processes which far too often stands in the way of new businesses and development. We also must cut wasteful spending and create a state budget that works for Rutland County residents and not just the Burlington metro area. 

What are your top priorities?

1. Helping to solve our financial crisis due to the pandemic.

2. Tackling our declining population problem, which in turn is hurting our employers, keeps new companies from coming to Rutland County and ultimately costs us all more in taxes.

3. It's 2020 and we must get a real handle on our lack of cell phone coverage and broadband internet in many parts of this county. Without correcting these problems, we are less competitive and attractive to new residents and businesses from starting or relocating here. 

4. We need a revamp of our permitting and regulatory process for new development and businesses. Vermont currently makes it far too difficult for a new business to start due to the layers of permits, regulations and red tape that stands in the way. We need to have a balance between what is best for our environment and what is right for the people of Rutland County. 

5. Being a great ambassador for Rutland County. I have heard time and again on the campaign trail that people are frustrated that it feels like Chittenden County is all Montpelier cares about. I'll do my best to ensure Rutland County is never forgotten about.

What distinguishes you from other candidates?

I have served for 10 years in municipal government, five of which as board chairman. Being the top elected leader of my community has prepared me to be an effective state senator for all of Rutland County starting on Day 1. I have been a part of a decade worth of budget and ordinance creation, supported our first responders, and always took into consideration the financial implications of my vote. As a father of four, husband and homeowner, I understand the true day-to-day highs and lows of being a productive Vermonter.

Also running but did not respond to our questionnaire:

Greg Cox, Democrat, West Rutland

Casey Jennings, Independent, Rutland City

Terry Williams, Republican, Poultney

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