BRATTLEBORO >> Adam Salviani had mulled over the idea of running for Select Board before making his bid for state representative.
"I had a couple people pushing me towards that," he said. "But the real problems are with the state, not the towns."
Salviani decided to run around May, saying he had many issues with state government. Not being one to sit around and complain, he said, he wanted to try to change things.
On Nov. 8, Salviani will be running against incumbent Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D, who has served the Brattleboro district of Windham 2-2 for eight years.
"It's exciting. I'm really enjoying it. I'm looking forward to it," he said. "It's just one of those things I wanted to do but never saw the opportunity to do before. It seems like the time is just right for me."
He has been involved in chambers of commerce in New Jersey and New York, where he lived before moving to Brattleboro in May 2014 when his wife was accepted into a New England Center for Circus Arts training program.
Salviani joined the Town Arts Committee in Brattleboro about a year and a half ago and became chairman in December. He has served on the WVEW Brattleboro Community Radio Board of Directors and taught fencing for the town's Recreation and Parks Department. He's also in the process of selling his internet marketing company called RPI Publications. He said the group has sold 1.3 million books and published authors from 117 countries.
"I originally went to school for international politics," said Salviani, who spent four years as an assistant to an ambassador at the United Nations. "I set up a lot of charities and fundraisers."
Salviani's concerns in Vermont start with financing. He pointed at budget deficits for adding "more and more pressure" to taxpayers.
"The state hasn't been able to balance a budget really within the last 10 years," he said. "We've had nine tax increases in the last three years and that comes because there's a budget deficit. That not only adds debt to the state, which will ultimately reduce our credit rating. It increases our rent, if you're a renter like me. It increases our school taxes. It really has a negative comprehensive effect on everything."
This issue factors into another one being highlighted by Salviani: "It's driving our generation out," said the soon-to-be 32 year old.
"There's 1,000 less kids in our schools every year. Those parents are ripping the students out because there's no opportunity," he said. "I'm trying to change that in order to represent people who want to stay here and start a life here."
He also worries about the University of Vermont being the most expensive state school in the United States with the lowest number of in-state students.
UVM graduates are returning to their home states to start careers and businesses, Salviani said, adding that the point of a state college system is to educate people within the state so they go back to their towns.
"That's not happening because the state has cut money to the University of Vermont," he said. "If I'm a new father, which hopefully someday I will be, certainly the education system is a concern. So is the health care system. We have a terrible health care system. I know because I'm on it."
Act 46, the new state legislation mandating school district mergers, was described by Salviani as "another symptom of an education system that they give a lot of wordplay to but don't necessarily have the right intentions for."
If the state managed its finances right, he said, school districts would not need to consolidate. He looks at it as a way of addressing budget pressures, although the law's intent has also been about improving inequities among students.
Salviani wants to tackle the drug and alcohol problems plaguing the state.
"It's been estimated that 15 percent of all Vermonters have some substance abuse issue. That's another thing that's being squeezed out of the budget," he said. "The democrats will give lip service to it. Actual money going to rehabilitation and treatment is going down. It's been reduced by about 20 percent in the last two years. What the money has gone to is more administration and studies."
Salviani hopes to affect change around at least one specific aspect of taxation.
"We're taxing our seniors. It's not normal," he said. "We're one of only 13 states that taxes social security benefits, which in itself is a crime."
He said he feels the responsibility to represent the interests of another big population in Brattleboro: artists.
"Arts funding makes up 0.012 percent of the (state) budget," said Salviani. "We have so many artists in our town. They need the support of the government to help them thrive and advance their careers, and they're not getting that."
This election marks the second contested general election in Brattleboro since the turn of the century, Salviani said. He calls indifference to the electoral system in town "really dangerous."
His reason for running as an independent has to do with dissatisfaction with the democratic party which he's registered with.
"I will only answer to the people of Brattleboro. I'm not going to answer to the party bosses," he said. "I'm definitely on the left side of the spectrum for sure. I just don't think the democrats have done a great job and I know a lot of people feel the same way. I think Brattleboro's a very independent-minded town and I think they'll appreciate that. Vermont is one of a few states where you can run as an independent and win."
Burke said she looks forward to discussing issues during her campaign.
"I have a great familiarity with our town, and a long record of service to Brattleboro citizens," she said.
Salviani did not seem troubled by missing out on being on the ballot during the primaries this month due to being an independent. The open governor's race "kind of sucked up most of the attention," he said.
He has hit the ground running — going door to door, posting on social media, sending mailers and signing up for events. And he's using his youth to promote the campaign.
"If we don't have young people in office, we're going to keep perpetuating old ideas," Salviani said. "If anything, I think we need new ideas in government."
Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.