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When Charles E. ‚ÄúChuck‚ÄĚ Brennan Jr. is hard at work in the deli at Dave‚Äôs Market on Tower Hill Road, he gets to cut through the baloney on a regular basis ‚Äď a feat that‚Äôs not as easy in his other job as a town councilman.
While, technically, his meat-cutting involves bologna ‚Äď spelled a different way ‚Äď you get the point.
‚ÄúI cut the baloney every day,‚ÄĚ says Chuck, who has been working at Dave‚Äôs since May. He‚Äôs following in a family tradition: daughter Andrea Mumford worked at Dave‚Äôs through high school and college; another daughter, Kaitlin, works now at the Quonset market.
After trying a few jobs he didn‚Äôt like after retiring from the North Kingstown Police Department ‚Äď private eye, car salesman, nail-maker, machinist ‚Äď Chuck has settled on a place not unlike TV‚Äôs ‚ÄúCheers‚ÄĚ bar where ‚Äúeverybody knows your name.‚ÄĚ
In fact, so many folks drift over to talk about town business, a young co-worker once asked, ‚ÄúAre you the mayor?‚ÄĚ
On a recent mid-week morning, things are a little slow until a man arrives to order the cranberry-walnut chicken salad. Dave‚Äôs chicken salad, Chuck notes, is among the most popular deli items. The customer asks about Chuck‚Äôs kids; Chuck asks about the man‚Äôs five grandchildren.
This is surely the epitome of life in a small town. ‚ÄúEverybody passes by,‚ÄĚ he says, adding, ‚Äútown councilmen come through and ask questions if I haven‚Äôt answered their e-mails.‚ÄĚ
Chuck, who is also a community service officer for the police department, working the occasional traffic detail, is in his first term on the town council. Not long into his term, he made news by resigning from the Democratic Town Committee after that body voted to censure longtime party stalwart and School Committee member Melvoid Benson. She had refused to vote along party lines when choosing a School Committee chairman.
It was this sort of adherence to principles that helped him choose a career path. Born in Providence, he moved to North Kingstown at 20, got an associate‚Äôs degree from CCRI, then a bachelor‚Äôs degree in administration of justice from Roger Williams University. He also attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., and served in the North Kingstown police force for 22 years, retiring with the rank of Captain.
He got hooked on the area when he sought respite from the heat of Providence by visiting a cousin who had moved to North Kingstown. He wound up working five years at Camp Yawgoo, for 10 weeks each summer, starting when he was 15.
This same cousin set him up on a double date with a girl named Jenny. ‚ÄúWe played cards and a month later I proposed.‚ÄĚ They‚Äôve been married 32 years and have five daughters and four grandkids with a fifth on the way.
They also have Mini, a sweet little mixed-breed dog from the animal shelter, who is deeply attached to Chuck. ‚ÄúI lost two dogs to Lyme disease,‚ÄĚ he explains. ‚ÄúLiz [McLaughlin, animal control officer] brought Mini by, handed her to me and said if it didn‚Äôt work I could take her back. My wife said, ‚ÄėWe don‚Äôt need another dog‚Äô so we kept her.‚ÄĚ
His experiences as a police officer tempered Chuck‚Äôs character and resolve. He proudly points to staying with a particularly heart-rending crime until it was resolved but also says he helped turn lives around by stopping young people who were starting down the wrong path.
As a detective, he tackled the case of an 88-year-old woman who was reported missing. ‚ÄúShe had taken on as a boyfriend a 50-year-old, one-legged biker,‚ÄĚ he recalls. It turned out she wasn‚Äôt missing; the woman had been dropped off at South County Hospital.
‚ÄúShe was malnourished, dehydrated and was unconscious. I took pictures then I worked six months to get background [on the boyfriend]. I got him indicted for involuntary manslaughter.‚ÄĚ
Sometimes reminders of his earlier police work walk right into Dave‚Äôs. ‚ÄúI run into people I arrested years ago,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúOne guy, about 30 years old, came into Dave‚Äôs and said, ‚ÄėI‚Äôve been staying out of trouble!‚Äô Somebody else asked him ‚ÄėWho‚Äôs that?‚Äô and he said, ‚ÄėJust the guy who straightened me out.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Chuck‚Äôs journey into town government was a natural fit.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve always liked politics,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúMy mom was chair of the 9th Ward Democratic Committee in Providence. She‚Äôd go around and register people to vote. She had me hand out materials and walk in parades promoting candidates.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve voted in every election since I was 18. I waited till [retiring from the police force] to get involved locally. The Democratic Town Committee asked me to run and I won the first time.‚ÄĚ
During his years in the police department, he learned about purchasing and bidding through, among other assignments, heading implementation of the $3 million addition to the headquarters on Post Road. It helped prepare him for the council‚Äôs budgetary work.
‚ÄúThe council is a good bunch of people,‚ÄĚ says Chuck. ‚ÄúThere have been disagreements over things but, in the end, you shake hands.‚ÄĚ
And what about Dave‚Äôs?
‚ÄúI get positive comments although it‚Äôs an odd career change,‚ÄĚ says Chuck. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a fun job.‚ÄĚ
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgView more articles in: