On March 22, 2023

Changing of the guard: Allaire reflects, Doenges projects

By Katy Savage

David Allaire was surprised when about 30 people showed up at the Rutland City Hall on Friday, March 10, including police officers, city employees and community members, to bid him farewell after six years as mayor. 

Allaire lost the election to Mike Doenges 1,710 to 1,317 on Town Meeting Day, March 7. His last day as mayor was Tuesday, March 14.

“It showed that people were so thankful for all those years of service and it really touched me,” Allaire said. 

More than 100 people commented on Allaire’s Facebook page, thanking him for his service. 

“You will always be a great part of this city and to all the people who have and will reside here,” Bruce Turco said. “Your heart for the city is bigger than anyone before and I’m sure for a while afterward.”

Aldermen Lawrence Cupoli, a former state representative, also praised Allaire. 

“You have made a difference in our community and you should be proud of your accomplishments,” he said.

Allaire reflected on his tenure several days after the election. Town Meeting Day saw about 25% of voters turn out — low for a mayoral race where typically at least 30% of registered voters go to the polls.

“I don’t think it would have changed the outcome, but I think it would have made me feel a little bit better that there was a bigger representation of voters,” Allaire said from his home on Friday, March 17.

Allaire served the city for 25 years. He started on the Board of Aldermen back in 1988, when he was 42. Some of Allaire’s friends had been Aldermen before him and encouraged him to campaign.

“I got to the point in my life where I thought I was going to stay here, raise my family here, I wanted to see what I could do to give back to the community and it was suggested that I take a run for the board and I did and I was successful and the rest I history,” Allaire said. 

He became interested in being mayor in 2011, when Christopher Louras was mayor.

“I wasn’t really agreeing with the mayor at the time and decided the best way to address my concerns was to give a shot for running for mayor,” he said.

Allaire was unsuccessful in his campaign against Louras in 2013 and unsuccessful again in 2015. Allaire finally defeated Louras and another challenger, Downtown Rutland Partnership Executive Director Michael Coppinger, in 2017. Louras had just announced that Rutland would be welcoming 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, which divided the city. The fire department was also facing budget woes from restructuring.

“I was proud of the fact I was able to bring the community together in 2017 after the election, which was very divisive,” Allaire said. “There was a lot of angst over the Syrian refugees and a lot of angst and a lot of discontent at the fire department.”

Prior to entering politics, Allaire spent 30 years as a salesman. He worked 20 years for a company that contracted to fundraise for the Vermont State Police, then became a salesman at the Vermont Eagle newspaper. Prior to getting elected, he was the sales manager of Interstate Batteries in Rutland.

Allaire’s proud of what he accomplished as mayor. He was often the first person in the office at 6:30 a.m. 

“Everyday was a very busy day,” he said. “It was 24/7. I always had my phone with me.”

The city debuted a new six-lane, 75-foot competition pool at White’s Memorial Park in 2018 under Allaire’s leadership. The city also acquired the former College of St. Joseph athletic facility for $1.8 million in 2021 after the college closed in 2019. 

Allaire said he’s still busy outside of his mayorship. He serves on a number of boards. 

He attended a Vermont Rail Advisory Council meeting in Montpelier on Thursday, March 16. The rail council is governor-appointed board that Allaire’s served on for the past 15 years.

He’s also on the Vermont Downtown Development Board, which meets monthly to review tax credits from around the state and award funds. Allaire, who has long been interested in railroads, is also on the Vermont Rail Action Network, a nonprofit that deals with rail issues.

“I’ve still got enough to keep busy for at least part of the time,” he said. “I’ve been sitting here thinking about what I want to do next because I want to continue to work… I kind of still like government service,” he said. “We’ll see what’s available and what’s out there. I’m going to keep my options open.”

Allaire and Doenges ran similar campaigns and had similar views. Allaire couldn’t pinpoint what led to Doegnes’ success but guessed the city simply wanted a change — particularly in the wake of increased crime in Rutland and the number of homeless people staying in hotels. 

“I think people felt as a lot of good things were going on there was some concern about crime and the hotel situation,” he said. 

Allaire wished Doenges success. 

“I want him to succeed because I want my community to succeed,”Allaire said.

Doenges was sworn in on Wednesday, March 15. 

“I was stoked,” Doenges said. “I felt we ran such a great campaign that it wasn’t surprising that I won, but I was shocked that we won by such a good margin.”

Doenges said his vision for Rutland’s future contributed to his success. 

“Dave was really good at keeping the status quo operating in the city and keeping things running, just not necessarily planning for the future,” Doenges said. “You’re going to find, especially over the next few months, the vision is a little bit more detailed, that the pace is going to be a little bit faster and that the things we’re targeting are going to be informed based on what Rutland wants to see done.”

Doegnes spent his first day moving the offices to the first floor— a campaign promise to make the mayor’s office more accessible. The human resources office moved upstairs.

“I need a vacuum,” Doegnes said the day after he was sworn in. 

“The hope is to get some volunteers in here to greet people at the front door and be able to have that constant communication with the public as they come into City Hall. I want to be accessible and present and someone that can be easily reached by the public.”

The mayor oversees 170 city employees and about 15,000 residents.

“I’m thrown right into the thick of it,” Doenges said. “There’s no delay here.” 

The city clerk handed him paperwork to get started. He spent his first few days in meetings, reviewing about two inches of paperwork.
“There’s zero formal training. And, that’s OK,” Doenges said. “It’s the job of running the business of the city. That’s going to be different not only everyday, but almost every 20 minutes it’s something different.”

Doenges floated the idea of adding a position to expand grant writing capabilities. 

He also might hire a new city attorney to expand hours. The current city attorney, Matt Bloomer, will be submitting a proposal.

“If the proposal is good and it’s financially feasible, it may be viable to stay with the contract that we have just expanded to cover more services,” Doenges said.  

Doegnes, the former president of the Board of Aldermen, attended his first Aldermen meeting as mayor on March 20. 

Doenges told the board he met with the owner of a movie theater business about possibly coming to Rutland.

He said he’s been reviewing contracts, including internet and cell phone to find savings to add new positions.

“I’ve got a couple of positions that I’d like to create here in short order,” he said. “We need to do that with money that we’ve been given not just for the next three months, but for the next 15 months.”

Doenges said he wants to work with state leaders on the hotel problem.

“We have to work with other cities in the state,” Doenges said.

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