Ruth Platner

Ruth Platner

Talk to Ruth just once about Charlestown and she will tell you how important conserving our remaining farms and natural places is to our town’s long term fiscal stability. How Charlestown develops and how the ratio of seasonal to year round residents is changed, has a direct impact on our tax rate. Land owners have a right to develop their land and those rights are defined in the town’s subdivision and zoning regulations. But those regulations are under constant pressure from lobbyists at the state legislature who seek to pass laws overturning local land use regulations. While most developers follow the Town’s regulations, a handful of applicants push plans with 60 houses where the zoning allows 10. Waterfront houses and vacation homes pay more in taxes than they use in services, but there is a cost to the community for every new year round house that is built away from these vacation areas. These are costs associated with tuition payments to Chariho and other community services such as road maintenance. Charlestown has the 3rd lowest tax rate in the state. Even with responsible development that will increase, but with the increased density that is often proposed, we could see much higher tax rates. We benefit from Ruth’s experience on the Planning Commission to continue to protect our environment and tax rate, as they clearly are closely related.

Ruth L. Platner – Planning Commission

Ruth grew up in California, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah, she studied in Switzerland and New York, but from the first day she saw Charlestown in 1977, she knew she was home. The beauty of Charlestown’s historic villages, farms, forests, and ocean beaches have kept Ruth here for over 40 years. Ruth has worked hard over those years to protect this beautiful place. Her work in land conservation has led to the preservation of over 2000 acres of new park land in our town; Ruth was invaluable in the defeat of the Federal Railroad Administration proposal to bisect Charlestown with new rail lines; and Ruth has always reminded us of the connection between natural resource protection and our relatively low tax rate. Ruth uses her time on the Planning Commission to “continue to serve the people and environment of Charlestown, by protecting our natural resources and subjecting changes in our land use regulations to a long term financial analysis.”


  • Post-graduate studies in Computer Science and Statistics – University of Rhode Island
  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology/Microbiology, Syracuse University
  • Graduate of Collège du Léman, International School, Geneva Switzerland

Professional Experience

  • Lead Programmer Analyst, University of Rhode Island – Web Developer (current position)
  • Senior Programmer Analyst, Graduate School of Oceanography/URI – Scientific Programmer – Provided computer programming support to scientists investigating long range transport of pollutants and other substances in the atmosphere, and the impacts of meteorological processes on the environment
  • Research Associate in Microbiology, URI – studied the movement and survival of antibiotic resistant bacteria in waste water
  • Microbiologist, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Laboratory, Rhode Island – Studied the health effects of consuming raw clams and correlated these with the various bacterial contaminants in water and shellfish.
  • Microbiologist – Syracuse New York – studied the effects of various treatments on virus in storm water overflow to determine the feasibility of converting a polluted lake to one suitable for recreation

Public Service

  • Member, Charlestown Rhode Island Planning Commission – appointed in 1997, elected since 1998
  • Provide web design and technical support to Charlestown Citizens Alliance
  • South County Conservancy (land trust) – Member Board of Directors 1995 to 1998
  • Member, Alliance to Save South County (1992-1997)
  • Citizen volunteer- Charlestown 1991 Comprehensive Plan
  • Legacy Member of The Nature Conservancy
  • Member Northeast Organic Farming Association
  • Attended workshops and training sessions for municipal leaders conducted by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Statewide Planning, RI Department of Health, Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, Coastal Resources Management Council, Natural Resource Conservation Service, URI Environmental Data Center, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Grow Smart Rhode Island, Save The Bay, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, RI Association of Conservation Commissions, Southern New England Forest Consortium, Northeast Organic Farming Association, Washington County Regional Planning Council and others from 1990 to the present.


  • With her husband, Cliff Vanover, she co-owns and operates Great Swamp Farm. Great Swamp Farm has been a state certified organic farm producing honey, eggs, bramble fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowering perennials. The farm produces most of the family’s food.
  • She also helps Cliff with his publishing business, Great Swamp Press that publishes authoritative maps and guides for hiking and biking in recreational areas in and near Rhode Island, plus maps and guides of historic and architectural interest.
  • Ruth and her husband built their passive solar home themselves in 1983. They are currently expanding the house with a structure built from native granite. They cut and shape the stones themselves. Their home uses very little energy – they have never had a heating bill.
  • Ruth is an avid cyclist who commutes 6 to 8 months of the year by bicycle to her job at URI

In 2016, you elected the people below to local positions in Charlestown