By Alan J. Keays, VTDigger
RUTLAND — Moments after his swearing-in as mayor, a steady stream of well-wishers walked past David Allaire’s new City Hall office on their way to a refreshment table.
Allaire, 61, a 19-year member of the Board of Aldermen, said Wednesday morning he planned to get right down to work at his neatly arranged desk in the mayoral office for his first day on the job.
The new mayor had run for the office twice before, seeking to unseat Christopher Louras from the post. This year, Allaire handily defeated the 10-year incumbent in Town Meeting Day voting last week for the two-year position.
Allaire garnered 52 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Louras, in a four-way race.
“It is a new beginning for the city of Rutland,” Allaire told a crowd of city officials and employees, community leaders as well as friends and family who gathered inside City Hall for the swearing-in ceremony.
“We’re going to move forward. We’re going to do it together,” the new mayor said. “I’ve got all sorts of optimism for the city of Rutland. I can’t wait to get to work.”
Among the few items atop his desk was a Bible used in the swearing-in, a few newspapers, several pens in a holder, a calendar, empty containers for incoming and outgoing paperwork, a coffee cup, a smartphone and a water bottle emblazoned with a city Fire Department logo.
Allaire, prior to getting down to business, had to resign from one city post in order to take the oath of office for the other. He was in the middle of a two-year term on the Board of Aldermen and handed board President William Notte his letter of resignation from that seat.
Then, City Clerk Henry Heck administered the mayoral oath as Allaire’s wife stood at her husband’s side.
“That I will faithfully execute the office of mayor,” Allaire said, repeating Heck’s words.
“So help me, God,” concluded the oath, setting off a round of applause.
Allaire, speaking after the brief event, said he planned to meet later in the day with city department heads as he assembles his administration for the next two years. “I think the first order of business is putting a team together,” Allaire said.
And it will start, he said, with his appointment of a new city attorney, who serves a vital role in city government. Attorney Charles Romeo resigned from the post prior to last week’s election, taking a job in private practice.
Allaire said he hoped to make that appointment at the next Board of Aldermen’s meeting Monday night, March 20.
“We’re still working on that,” Allaire said in response to a question about who that person might be. “I think I’m making some progress.”
In addition, Allaire gets to appoint someone to fill his remaining year on the Board of Aldermen, which he also expects to do at Monday night’s meeting.
“I’ve cast the net far and wide,” is all Allaire would say about that selection process.
He was equally noncommittal about the position of Fire Chief Michael Jones.
The city firefighters union earlier this year issued a vote of no confidence in the chief. Jones, along with then-Mayor Louras, backed a reorganization plan for the department, while the union opposed it.
Allaire later won the endorsement of the city firefighters union in the mayoral race, seen by many as a key factor in the contest.
Louras, speaking after the election, did not consider the Fire Department matter the turning point leading to his loss. Instead, he attributed his defeat to his stance in support of resettling Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the city.
Allaire opposed that proposal and had the backing in the mayoral campaign of Rutland First, a group that formed in opposition to refugee resettlement. Allaire said he wasn’t against refugees, but criticized Louras for not coming to the Board of Aldermen and the public earlier about the resettlement plans.
Allaire focused his campaign message on making transparency a hallmark of his administration.
Louras has said that if he had gone to the board sooner, he believed it would have led to a citywide vote on the matter, setting a dangerous precedent of residents choosing who their neighbors would be.
Allaire’s appointments for many of the department head positions will need approval from the Board of Aldermen.
Allaire did have a question of his own after he took the oath and gave his short address.
“Where’s the food?” he asked.
“It wasn’t in the budget,” someone in the crowd joked as several people headed to a back room where the refreshment spread was set up.
Photo by Alan J. Keays, VTDigger
Rutland City Clerk Henry Heck, left, administers the oath of office to new Rutland Mayor David Allaire on Wednesday, March 15, in City Hall.