Rutland — Six months from Town Meeting Day, the local election campaign in Rutland has begun.

Rutland City Council Speaker Mike Doenges kicked off his mayoral campaign this morning, saying revitalizing the town requires long-term planning. Its priorities include reversing a decades-long population decline, creating more housing, and attracting new businesses.

“Rutland needs a goal post, a goal to shoot for, one that we can all see and say, ‘this is where we are going’,” Doenges, 42, said after officially announcing his candidacy. local residential area.

Doenges, who grew up in the town, said his overarching goal was to help Rutland innovate and evolve into a place where future generations will choose to build their lives. He lives in Rutland with his wife, Rutland City School Board member Sara Atkins-Doenges, and their two teenage children.

“The idea that Rutland is a viable, welcoming, fun and great place to live with great opportunity is really what drove me to do this,” he said.

Doenges, who worked in sales at tech company Cisco Inc., said he decided to enter politics in 2021 after hearing current Mayor David Allaire might not be interested in re-election. beyond this term.

Allaire was first elected in 2017 and has been re-elected twice. He could not immediately be reached for comment Friday morning.

With the mayor’s office out of the way, Doenges ran for a council of councilors last year – his first elected position – and sought the presidency in March.

“I don’t want to go into this blindly,” he said. “I really wanted to understand the inner workings of the city.”

Doenges said he was not registered with any political party.

Rutland is only one of eight municipalities in Vermont with a mayor. The others are Barre, Burlington, Montpelier, Newport, St. Albans, Vergennes and Winooski.

Rutland City Council Speaker Mike Doenges, surrounded by family and friends, announced his candidacy for mayor on Friday, September 23, 2022. Photo by Tiffany Tan/VTDigger

Doenges believes that developing a master plan that spans 20 to 25 years is key to revitalizing Rutland.

He said the scheme would make it easier to attract property developers who knew there would be a stable market for their developments. Building new homes in the currently tight housing market will attract more workers to the city, including highly skilled professionals, which Mr Doenges said would in turn boost the business sector.

As mayor, Doenges said he will also emphasize government accountability to ensure plans are followed.

During the 20th century, Rutland recorded its highest population of 19,293 in the 1970 U.S. Census – the second largest city in Vermont after Burlington.

But since the 1980s, as Vermont’s overall population has grown, its population has steadily declined. The city’s population fell from 18,436 in the 1980 U.S. census to 15,807 two years earlier. It grew to the fifth largest city, replaced by Essex, South Burlington and Colchester.

Since joining the Council of Advisors in March 2021, Doenges said he has already started implementing some of his revitalization ideas. He said the council was working on a scheme under which the city would provide low-interest loans to support the renovation of owner-occupied rental housing at market rates.

Doenges said he also strongly supports local placement refugees. For example, dozens of Afghan refugees have been resettled in the Rutland region since the beginning of the year.

Up to 75 refugees are expected to be brought to Rutland County over the next 12 months, according to the US Refugee and Immigration Council, a federally contracted resettlement agency.

“I think over time the whole community has become very pro-refugee,” Doenges said. “They are already adding value to our community.”

This story will be updated.

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