Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of four profiles on the first selectmen candidates in Kent.
KENT — First Selectman candidate Rufus de Rham said, if elected, he would like to work on improving connectivity and affordable housing in town.
De Rham, a petitioning candidate who is unaffiliated, is running against First Selectman Jean Speck, a Democrat; Selectman Ed Matson, a Republican; and James E. Rundall, a petitioning candidate.
If elected first selectman, he said he would like to improve connectivity, which, he said, is more important than ever “due to all the new residents” in town.
He said that as a result of the pandemic, “we’ve had a lot of people move into Kent. A lot of weekenders became full-time citizens. There’s been a very hot market and we’ve got a big influx of new people ... who are working independently in their own homes ... so the broadband issue is extremely important.”
De Rham added Kent needs to look at working by itself, and also at “being part of a regional push to get fiber optics to everybody in town. We’ve had such an issue with internet connections and cell service — that needs to improve.”
He said money in infrastructure bills and the American Rescue Plan Act can possibly be used to pay for the town’s broadband issues.
Additionally, he’s concerned about affordable housing for all levels.
“There’s very little housing available for people who might be starting families,” he said.
He added he wants to ensure the town continues to try to stay up to date with state mandates.
De Rham is referring to the 2017 state statute that states all municipalities must develop an affordable housing plan by July 2022. Affordable housing is housing that costs less than 30 percent of the income of a household earning 80 percent or less of the area’s median income. In 2020, the Connecticut Department of Housing made grant money available to help municipalities develop an affordable housing plan.
In 2020, 4 percent of the housing in Kent is affordable, according to the state Department of Housing Affordable Housing Appeals list.
He said he would also like to see communication improved in town. He said the town’s “active groups” with both affordable housing and land trust should “sit down and talk to each other and try to come up with an overall plan that will meld some of the town’s goals together.”
De Rham, 67, is chairman of the Board of Assessment Appeals. Since the 1980s, he has served the town in many other capacities as well, including Planning and Zoning, Zoning Board of Appeals, Board of Finance, and as selectman.
He said he’s proud that he’s been able to serve the town for so long. His prior accomplishments include, while serving on the Board of Finance, recognizing the fire department needed a new firehouse, he said.
He said he encouraged the Board of Finance to open a capital fund to put money aside for when the fire department came to the town to build the firehouse. In that way, he said, “it wasn’t going to be one major tax boast when it actually happened, in the 1990s.”
De Rham is married with four children and five grandchildren. For 30 years, he was a high school teacher in New Milford and at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, working in the English department.
After retiring five years ago, he has been a tour coordinator for the New Milford Senior Center’s tour services program. He also does carpentry work at the center.
He was also a member of the Kent Volunteer Fire Department, was an EMT on the ambulance, a member of the Kent Lions Club and Kent Community Players.