On November 2, 2022

Six candidates, three Democrats and three Republicans, seek three Rutland county Senate seats

Republican Brian Collamore of Rutland Town is the only incumbent as Sens. Cheryl Hooker, a Democrat, and Joshua Terenzini, a Republican, aren’t seeking re-election.

Collamore is running against fellow Republicans Dave Weeks of Proctor and Terry Williams of Poultney. The Republicans face Democrats Anna Tadio of Rutland City, Joshua Ferguson, of Fair Haven and Bridgettte Remington of Rutland Town.

Q&A with Brian Collamore, Republican

Collamore, 71, has served in the Senate since 2015. He has an extensive broadcast career in both Middlebury and Rutland with over 45 years on the radio and over 35 years in sales. He also has served as an ice hockey official since 1978 and still referees youth, high school, and college hockey games. Hes been the Vermont supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, president of the Vermont Chapter of the National Ice Hockey Association of America, and board member of the Vermont State Amateur Hockey Association.

Mountain Times: Why are you running for senate?

Brian Collamore: I am running for my fifth term in the Vermont Senate because in addition to supporting legislation, which is positive for Rutland County, I honestly enjoy helping constituents navigate the ins and outs of state government. When someone contacts me and says, “I have tried to get through to someone at (a department or agency) and have not been able to,” I want to be someone who can help. Normally, I can at least put them in touch with someone who can assist them. I see that as a big part of my role as a legislator.

MT: What do you think the three biggest issues facing the Rutland area are?

BC: Most people I talk to have mentioned the economy (cost of living, inflation, etc.); public safety — people see crime on the rise even in Rutland County and are worried about it; affordable and accessible childcare.

MT: The housing crisis is hitting Vermont hard. How can we combat this issue?

BC: The Vermont Legislature adjourned last session after increasing funding for affordable housing and passing legislation to protect renters from unsafe building conditions and address discrimination and systemic racism in housing. Two bills, S.210 and S.226, will collectively invest over $45 million. In addition, base funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, which administers state funding for affordable housing and works to increase housing availability, was increased by $10 million dollars. VHCB also received $20 million in ARPA funding for the Vermont Housing Improvement Program which awards grants or loans to landlords to fix rental housing that is not up to code, as well as to create new accessory dwelling units. Locally, I was happy to listen to a proposal from Zak Hale from Hale Resources.  Zak and his father Jon have partnered to create quality housing opportunities for families in Bennington and Rutland counties.

MT: Many employers are struggling to find workers. What do you think some solutions are?

BC: Vermont is working hard to address the problem of finding workers for our businesses. A bill (S.11) invests nearly $17 million dollars of both state and federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to address Vermont’s workforce shortage.

MT: Why are so many parents struggling to find daycare? What can be done?

BC: I have been fortunate this fall to tour and find out more about some of the childcare centers in Rutland. Little Lambs, Rutland County Parent Child Center and Sycamore Tree Child Care Center all stressed the need for increased funding and support for this critical sector if we are to grow our economy. Also, a report released just three months ago concluded that Vermont’s early childhood programs are spread across too many areas of state government and often struggle to coordinate with each other, and that Vermont should consider creating a single unit of government focused on early childhood.

Pre-K is jointly administered by the Vermont Agency of Education and the Agency of Human Services. But the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health, which are within the Agency of Human Services but separate from the Department for Children and Families, also offers services for young children.

Meanwhile, children attend pre-K in both public and private programs, while most childcare programs are private. Multiple appointed state officials and some lawmakers have called for the administration of pre-K to be folded into the Agency of Education.

House Bill 171, which passed almost unanimously calls for a report due back to lawmakers by January 2023 which will make recommendations. In the short term, the bill makes $12.7 million in new investments in Vermont’s childcare system in the current fiscal year.

The bill puts an additional $5.5 million this fiscal year toward the state’s childcare subsidy program for low-income Vermonters, which will allow the state to expand eligibility and lower copays.

MT: What’s your opinion on the proposed reproductive liberty amendment?

BC: Vermont citizens will have their say in less than a month on Article 22. The Legislature has already done what is necessary to effect a constitutional change. From this point on, it is up to the citizens of Vermont. I heard from approximately 160 constituents about this proposed amendment. They contacted me by email, phone call or stopped me on the street. Nearly 70% indicated they were not supporting the amendment and asked me to vote no, which I did. Quite a few identified themselves as pro-choice but still thought this went too far.

Q&A with David Weeks, Republican

Weeks, 61, has 31 years of service, including serving as a Marine infantry corporal and Navy captain. He is a business chaos manager, with an international record of accomplishment leading operations, pursuits, and business development for 35 years in all aspects of high technology leadership and project management in the multi-billion-dollar range.

Mountain Times: Why are you running for senate?

David Weeks: My entire life has been centered on service to our nation and our region. Now my focus is on direct service to our community. Representing Rutland county as a state senator is my give back to the state, county and towns that I cherish. The causes of our regional economic decline and our decreasing population are unchanged over my lifetime. My collaborative leadership style, professional background and inertia are needed to solve Vermont’s 80-year-old economic slump. The most important steps to this recovery include investment in highways/broadband infrastructure, tourism rebranding, lowering bureaucracy, addressing our energy dependencies, and working much closer with our New York/New Hampshire/Massachusetts/Canadian neighbors.

MT: What do you think the three biggest issues facing the Rutland area are?

DW: Rutland County has suffered economically since the decline of the railroad age. We are stuck in the stagnation of a ‘Model T’ economy. First, fix the economy for the benefit of all citizens. Second, infrastructure enhancement: The stagnant economy is the No. 1. drag on Rutland county’s quality of life. Rejuvenating our economy benefits everyone. Next I would prioritize infrastructure that pays back: roads, broadband, cell coverage, building renovation, and the electricity grid. Third, focus on education: Strong competitive schools maximize the programs available to ensure our children are economically competitive. Ensure our trade schools are properly emphasized to educate skilled tradesmen as an optional career for our youth.

Fourth, incentivize the transition away from fossil fuels: This transition is needed to ensure clean air and clean water. Using incentives, not tax punishments such as the recent carbon tax bill, we should move incrementally towards a non-carbon economy. Vermonters should not be asked to buy new electrical vehicles or convert boilers until their items age and need replacement. We should support a measured response not paid on the backs of an aging and decreasing population. For the longer term, Vermont should ensure its own energy independence and establish two latest generation nuclear power plants as a matter of priority.

MT: The housing crisis is hitting Vermont hard. How can we combat this issue?

DW: We all agree that affordable housing is a critical issue in sustaining vibrant communities. I support two approaches towards a solution: Across the county, incentivize the restoration and weatherization of dormant housing, empty downtown business buildings, and unused industrial facilities. Rebalance Act 250 to recognize the need for community smart growth, allowing critically lacking housing and infrastructure. Ensure that Act 250 doesn’t kill the building of affordable housing, but support attractive architecture to maintain our culture and support community sustainability.

MT: Many employers are struggling to find workers. What do you think some solutions are?

DW: This is actually a national issue. To bolster the availability of labor across the country, I strongly support a nimble program of international guest visas. The process between identifying the need for a new labor and having a skilled worker on hand should be extremely responsive.

MT: Why are so many parents struggling to find daycare? What can be done?

DW: There is a significant lack of day care professionals and facilities available across the state. I propose three approaches to increase the available openings: First, maintain safety of our youngest children but reduce the regulation on daycare providers. Get the government out of the way and allow the daycare market supply-demand to find equilibrium. Second, support micro loans for the startup and expansion of local daycare centers. Third, address the worker shortage issue that I outlined in the above question and do it quickly.

MT: What’s your opinion on the proposed reproductive liberty amendment?

DW: Proposition 5 is an appropriate way for Vermonters to have their voice heard directly on the topic of reproductive autonomy. While Prop. 5 is an imperfect document, the intent is appropriate. The government should not be involved in the medical decisions of women.

Q&A with Terry Williams, Republican

Williams, 70, is an eighth-generation Vermonter. He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel after serving with the Army and Army National Guard for 35 years as enlisted and officer ranks, including one combat tour in Afghanistan. After retiring, he returned to Poultney and purchased his aunt and uncle’s dairy farm and started Slate Hill Farms LLC, a NOFA certified, organic vegetable farm which he still operates today. Williams has served as town health officer, select board member, and chairman of the town Public Safety Committee. He’s currently vice chair of the Poultney Select Board, he has also been the Poultney emergency management coordinator and commissioner to the Rutland Regional Planning Commission.

Mountain Times: Why are you running for senate?

Terry Williams: I am running because I love my state and its people and I think that I can greatly contribute to the betterment by contributing my time, experience and compassion toward its governance.I am a small business owner, a member or Poultney’s select board, the Rutland Regional Planning Commission, and was a member of the Otter Creek Communication Utility District and have taken the time to take a close look at the legislative and legal processes in Vermont. I have three children, four beautiful grandchildren and my mother is 93 years young, and we are all still here in Vermont and we are not going anywhere, so I think that we can and must do a better job of governing for the people of Vermont. I want to help.

MT: What do you think the three biggest issues facing the Rutland area are?

TW: The economy, public safety, and mental illness.

MT: The housing crisis is hitting Vermont hard. How can we combat this issue?

TW: We need to build a consortium of local government, business owners and community leaders to take a bottom up view of the problem and look for solutions. One thing that we should look at are the buildings in our cities, towns and villages that are derelict and try repurposing what already exists for a near term fix to the problem. If they can be repurposed, put those buildings on a list and apply for state and federal funding to make them useful again, and provide adequate housing in the interim. If those buildings cannot be repurposed, they could be torn down and new housing units should be built. The state of Vermont and Rutland County need to develop a bottom-up strategic plan for adequate housing units for the out years. This plan should be developed by the aforementioned consortium with over sight from the regional planning commission and state.

MT: Many employers are struggling to find workers. What do you think some solutions are? 

TW: First, import skilled laborers and tradesmen from other states or nations to do what work is needed to bring back the local economy. But, in order to do this, good wages will need to be offered. I think anyone who has tried to hire a contractor lately will admit that it is better to hire a professional for a higher than usual wage than to go without the service being accomplished. Second, identify people that have no skills or are on state assistance and give them a job at a liveable wage. This was done during the great depression and WPA and CCC camps were created to give the unskilled training in those skills that were needed. When trained, they found good paying jobs and a chance to earn what they needed.

MT: Why are so many parents struggling to find daycare? What can be done?

TW: State regulations are very stringent. There would be more childcare available if professional training and other requirements were relaxed. The state government should provide oversight or delegate that requirement to local governments, but those municipal entities would need to be compensated for performing the oversight.

MT: What’s your opinion on the proposed reproductive liberty amendment?

TW: I believe that this constitutional amendment is unnecessary. Vermont law, Act 47, already allows for a fetus to be aborted through the third trimester of a pregnancy. The other issue I have with article 22 is the ambiguity as it is written on the Nov. 8 ballot. What is personal reproductive autonomy or liberty? What is a compelling state interest? I would need to have these questions answered before I could support a constitutional amendment.

Bridgette Remington, Democrat

Bridgettte Remington, 45, of Rutland Town, is an attorney at Pratt Vreeland Kennelly Martin and White in Rutland. She did not respond to a request for comment in time for the Mountain Times’ deadline. Remington is a seventh generation Vermonter who worked in local government as a town auditor and planning commission member. She has worked at the state level as a hearing officer for the Vermont Public Utility Commission and was a judicial intern at the Vermont Supreme Court.

“With more than 30% of Vermont’s State Senators not returning this year, I am ready to bring a thoughtful, determined, and consensus-building approach to the State Senate,” Remington’s website says. “I am ready to help Rutland County plan for our future economy, infrastructure, and public health and safety. I am committed to securing financial resources and collaborating to find solutions to support our amazing community.”

Q&A with Joshua Ferguson, Democrat

Ferguson, 32, was born in Rutland City and is a lifelong and many-generation Vermonter. Ferguson secured the nomination for Vermont Senate by a write-in vote. He embodies what he calls “the civic spirit of Vermont.”

Mountain Times: Why are you running for senate?

Josh Ferguson: Vermont is at a defining moment for a new generation of leadership. My extensive record of public service as an educator, advocate and coordinator of youth programs and public health leadership, combined with an education from Castleton and Columbia University, lends itself to serving as a senator. We need to approach complex issues as partners and ensure that Rutland County has principled voices of civility in Montpelier. In the Senate, I hope to build upon recent progress and add vision by engaging diverse stakeholders to innovate and problem-solve. By virtue of being among a new generation of leaders, I bring a unique edge in skills and strengths to facilitate coalition-building, communication, connectivity and innovation on all fronts. In my nomination announcement, I remarked that I want my campaign to embrace a powerful sense of equity and common hope and belonging for all Vermonters — by birth and by choice. Those values are core to my ethos as a citizen, civic innovator, and champion of a new generation of leadership.

MT: What do you think the three biggest issues facing the Rutland area are?

JF: Economic growth, opportunity and standard of living. We need to make Rutland County attractive and competitive with sustainable business-friendly policies to expand opportunity.

We can grow our economy, while promoting a culture of innovation aimed at resiliency. Seeking to balance environmental protections, ensuring families can thrive, and creating sustainable pathways for Vermonters to build wealth, will not be achieved when citizens lack meaningful capacity or efficacy in defining a role and opportunity in our communities and our economy.

To grow our economy and expand opportunity, we need to make investments in four key areas: childcare, mental health services, law enforcement and public safety, and public health.

MT: The housing crisis is hitting Vermont hard. How can we combat this issue?

JF: One meaningful set of policy solutions would include targeted tax credits, amending Act 250, and encouraging complementary zoning reforms such that it aligns with achieving affordability, environmental protection, and expanding opportunity, while promoting investments in smart growth, climate resilience, and sustainable development. Innovative incentives, zoning reform, and a 21st century Act 250 can be supporting strategies to combat housing and high costs of building, developing, owning or renting. Additionally, critical infrastructure priorities are fundamental to ensuring that our communities have safe and reliable means of moving goods and services, which helps make our region and state competitive. Meaningful investments and reforms would help also with retaining homegrown construction, civil engineering, and regional planning talent.

MT: Many employers are struggling to find workers. What do you think some solutions are?

JF: Vermont has acute shortages across vital sectors. Workforce development and economic growth must be pursued in parallel with business development strategies to expand opportunity. Economic and workforce development was a key focus area of the last biennium, including investments in Vermont’s career technical education system and statewide efforts to increase workforce participation across sectors, as well as grants for tech hubs and incubators. Building upon those solutions, Vermont can better identify ways to educate and facilitate vocational training for incarcerated individuals, young adults, immigrants, first-generation college students, etc. Further, initiatives aimed at gainful employment, education advancement across sectors, compelling incentives and benefits, and educational and training partnerships with companies may help to address gaps in workforce participation.

Adding to this issue, a lack of affordable housing presents a challenge for attracting and retaining a thriving workforce. Another dimension of the workforce shortage is that parents face balancing high costs and responsibilities associated with childcare and healthcare while maintaining employment or advancing in a meaningful career. These complex challenges may shed light on opportunities in public education, childcare, and workforce development strategies going forward. To address workforce shortages we will need to focus on vital sectors, including childcare, education, healthcare, skilled trades, etc.

MT: Why are so many parents struggling to find daycare? What can be done?

JF: Childcare is essential to healthy communities and resilient economies. To reiterate, underlying all of the workforce shortages are critical gaps in childcare. Communities lack affordable and flexible options for childcare, youth programming, afterschool enrichment opportunities. The workforce gaps, the demand, the licensing and registration framework, and ability to meet needs beyond traditional hours and capacity is out of alignment. 60% of Vermont families do not have access to affordable, flexible childcare options. We need to grow the sector in line with developing a comprehensive childcare system that meets the needs of all families in Vermont.

MT: What’s your opinion on the proposed reproductive liberty amendment?

JF: The constitutional amendment seeks to safeguard personal reproductive liberty for Vermonters. Beyond constitutional liberty, it is an essential public health interest for communities and individuals to navigate intimate decisions relating to reproductive health with autonomy and dignity, without state intervention. Such decisions are best determined by patients and practitioners. In law, this amendment will facilitate the advancement of safe practices. I believe Vermonters, by and large, will support this amendment, and I believe constituents of Rutland County will vote yes come November. The public relations campaign against Proposition 5 is a disturbing and misguided use of funds that could be better spent providing sex education, essential health services, STI awareness, and access to contraceptives in communities across Vermont. Instead, it sought to align church and state, confuse voters on the standard of strict scrutiny, and misinterpret a constitutional amendment that will ultimately protect fundamental liberties. Meanwhile, Vermonters can be proud that practitioners have called for Vermont to serve as a safe harbor in a moment of darkness.

Q&A with Anna Tadio, Democrat

Tadio, 32, is a staff attorney for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. She currently sits on the Board of Aldermen — a position she was elected to in March as part of Rutland Forward, a progressive group of candidates.

Mountain Times: Why are you running for senate?

Anna Tadio: I am running for State Senate because I am on the Rutland City Board of Aldermen and many of the issues that I want to solve need solutions at the state level, such as high quality affordable housing, child care and elder care, a plan to address climate change, and building our economy.

MT: What do you think the three biggest issues facing the Rutland area are?

AT: Lack of affordable housing, lack of accessible and affordable child care, and the need to grow our grand list by attracting people to live here.

MT: The housing crisis is hitting Vermont hard. How can we combat this issue?

AT: We can renovate and restore existing housing stock with a combination of federal and statewide grants and private investments. We can also support smart development of new housing on public transportation routes that is accessible to the outdoors.

MT: Many employers are struggling to find workers. What do you think some solutions are?

AT: We need to invest in affordable housing so that workers can move here and can afford to live here. We need to build our economy and we cannot do this without workers. We cannot encourage people to move here without available housing.

MT: Why are so many parents struggling to find daycare? What can be done?

AT: There are not enough day care facilities in Rutland County. People are on waitlists and cannot get in. People are having to quit their jobs to stay home to care for their children. Childcare workers are quitting their jobs because they are not being paid commensurate with their experience and credentials. We need to invest in our childcare workers and pay them adequately. We need to support existing facilities to expand capacity and we need to find ways to expand programs like Tapestry that are working but understaffed.

MT: What’s your opinion on the proposed reproductive liberty amendment?

AT: I fully support the RLA.

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