Final four: City board candidates push ideas
(Editor’s note: This is the third of three stories profiling candidates for Rutland aldermen. Twelve people are competing for six seats. The previous profiles appeared Monday and Tuesday.)
By Gordon Dritschilo
A number of candidates for Rutland City alderman are becoming familiar names on the ballot.
John Mattison, 51, works at Rutland Mental Health. This is his second run for the board. He also tried unsuccessfully last year to unseat Rep. Herb Russell, D-Rutland.
“I don’t give up easy,” Mattison said. “I still feel there’s room for improvement in the city. I still want to work with the other people on the Board of Aldermen to make Rutland a better place.”
Mattison said that while drug crime seems to be the top issue in Rutland, all the city’s issues are inter-related.
“You can’t really address one issue without addressing them all,” he said.
That said, there are a number of steps Mattison thinks the city should take.
“We should be involved in getting the police — instead of having them driving around in cars, get them out walking neighborhood beats, downtown beats,” he said, adding that the resulting exposure would get the police and community more involved with each other.
Mattison supports the use of tax stabilization in the city and said Rutland needs to campaign for the state to open a methadone clinic here.
“When the city starts to show improvement such as it has and starts to come around a little more, maybe it’ll be time to re-address the recreation thing,” said Mattison, who led the petition drive that overturned the 2011 recreation bond.
Alderman Charles Romeo, 30, is a deputy state’s attorney. While he served a stint on the board previously, as an appointee, he is finishing his first full term.
“I’ve learned that making policy isn’t always as easy as it would seem from the outside,” Romeo said. “In some cases we’re fairly limited in terms of what we can do.”
Because of Romeo’s job, he has recused himself from discussions related to the police department, and he says he will continue to do so if he is re-elected. So, with crime issues largely off the table, he said neighborhood stabilization will be a central focus in his next term.
The recent housing-needs study identified a neighborhood the city should target in a revitalization effort, and Romeo said the board will need to find ways to balance citywide goals versus neighborhood goals in infrastructure and policy planning.
Romeo also said he was not convinced the item on the March ballot regarding residential tax stabilization is going to give the city the tools it needs, and the board may want to petition Montpelier for expanded authority.
Romeo said his legal background sets him apart from other board members.
“I think what I bring to the board is more on the technical side,” he said. “It’s one thing to say ‘We ought to be doing something.’ To put it into writing where it can be debated and passed is something I bring to the board.”
Alderman David Wallstrom, 38, is a nurse at Rutland Regional Medical Center. He is concluding his first term on the board.
“I learned a lot about what the Board of Aldermen can and can’t do and how to focus on what our job is and what our job isn’t,” he said. “We’re not a select board. A select board is also the executive branch of the government. We’re town meeting two days a month.”
Wallstrom said many of the city’s problems are the result of actions in decades in the past.
“Our challenge now is to remediate those and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes,” he said. “That’s why I’m so focused on long-term planning. ... Most of the problems are the result of poor planning in the past, not realizing the future was going to catch up with us.”
With a capital plan he helped develop already in place, Wallstrom said the next hurdle is to make sure the administration follows the plan and tweaks it when needed.
“Most of the communities we’ve worked with that have a capital-improvement plan tweaked it every three or four years to make it better,” he said.
Daniel White, 56, runs a second-hand store. He said he has lost track of how many times he has run for the board.
“I’m dedicated,” he said. “I really want to try it again.”
White’s only specific policy agenda this year involves eliminating the Police Commission.
“I just believe that the mayor’s office and the Board of Aldermen should have direct contact with the functions of the police department as a whole,” he said. “That’s my proposal — not to say it would ever go through.”
White also said the board needs to be more focused on current issues.
“I think I can bring a new voice and new ideas, refreshing ideas,” he said. “I’m going to be more of a doer than a talker.”