By Evan Johnson
Citing his efforts to rejuvenate and grow the city he calls home, Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras formally kicked off his reelection bid on Monday evening with a call to Rutland residents to elect him for a sixth two-year term .
Speaking to a packed audience in the The Bakery, Louras stood on a plastic milk carton while he recounted his work, starting in 2007.
In 2014, when then-governor Peter Shumlin dedicated his entire state of the state address to the state’s opiate epidemic, Rutland found itself at the center of statewide efforts to combat drugs in Vermont and in the national spotlight.
As a response, Louras indicated Project VISION as a community’s effort to redefine itself.
“We rolled up our sleeves and we got the job done,” he said.
In January, Project VISION was named a semifinalist in Harvard’s 2017 Innovations in American Government Awards competition.
Louras said the project has been used as a model around the state and representatives from Project VISION have presented the project to the National League of Cities, the National Association of Chiefs of Police and the International City/County Management Association as a model for grassroots community policing. They also presented to to Fulton County in Georgia.
“They called Rutland,” he said.
Louras attributed recent declines in local burglaries and theft to the success of Project VISION.
“It’s a different place than it was three short years ago,” he said. “And it takes bold, resolute leadership in order to transform a community and that’s what I want to continue to do,” he said.
Louras also highlighted his work balancing the city’s budget, improving roads and city plumbing – which dates back to the 19th century – and saving taxpayer money by renegotiating contracts with unions.
Now in 2017, Louras said Rutland is in the national spotlight again, this time for humanitarian efforts as thousands of refugees from the Middle East seek to enter the United States. Rutland was approved as a host city in September to accept 25 Syrian families. The first two families arrived in early January before an executive order from the Trump administration closed the borders to seven majority Muslim countries and curtailed the nation’s refugee resettlement program.
“Now is not the time to let up off the gas,” he said. “I am running because there is too much at stake for this community in 2017.”
Louras is being challenged by alderman David Allaire and former alderman Michael Coppinger, the executive director of the Downtown Rutland partnership. Rutland voters will pick their mayor on March 7.