By TRACEY O’NEILL
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN – November’s ballot for Town Council is veritable proof of Democracy in action with a slate of fourteen candidates vying for a seat on the five-member council. The cast of characters includes only three incumbents, all having served multiple terms in office.
Council President, Elizabeth (Liz) Dolan (R.), seeking her fourth term at the helm, previously served on the Town’s Planning and Charter Review commissions. An endorsed candidate, Dolan is a member of the Rhode Island Federation of Republican Women (RIFRW).
When asked why she was running again, Dolan replied, “I wasn’t planning on it at first. The committee asked me and I knew there were issues - things we hadn’t completed.” Dolan ,who has lived in the Town since 1991, is a mother of four and has one child remaining in the school system. “I will be here for at least another two years, so I am able to serve another term.”
Joining Dolan is fellow Republican Carol Hueston. Hueston served on the town council since 2008 and previously sat as a member of the school committee. Presently seeking her third term in office, Hueston has lived in North Kingstown the majority of her life. Obtaining both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Rhode Island, she says she is supportive of fostering a working relationship with the school committee.
The third incumbent seeking a seat is Democrat Michael Bestwick. A small business owner, Bestwick has lived in the town for 22 years. A proponent of a business-friendly economy, the candidate was instrumental in bringing the Post Road sewer project to fruition.
Challenging the incumbents on the Republican side are endorsed candidates Brent Cleaveland, Mark Hawkins and Kerry McKay.
Cleaveland, who coined the phrase “Exodus Rhode Island” when speaking about of Rhode Island residents seeking gainful employment in other states, is also a supporter of small business. Stating often, “I think government should get out of the way,” Cleaveland says he wants to attract businesses to the Post Road corridor. A self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Cleaveland believes that the key to fostering a good relationship between the town council and school committee is to work together during the entire budget process.
“In order to have an understanding of the needs of the school department, the Council has to work with them before approving or denying a budget,” Cleaveland said in a recent phone interview.
Local developer Mark Hawkins also threw his hat into the ring. Proposing a more streamlined form of government, Hawkins encourages a close scrutiny and possible overhaul of Town expenses and revenue streams. Hawkins, bringing his experience in planning and development to the table, is supportive of transparency in the decision-making process. Increasing the Town tax base without an increase in tax burden to residents is part of Hawkin’s platform, as well as green development initiatives and environmentally sound practices.
Republican businessman Kerry McKay is also seeking a seat at the Council table. McKay, whose campaign slogan is, “I’m in it for you, not me,” is a lifetime resident of North Kingstown. A local business owner, McKay expressed frustration with the regulatory process impeding the timely processing of business and developmental progress. Calling for a more user-friendly process in government offices, McKay says he wants to alleviate the feeling of adversity between businessmen and government agencies.
In further hopes of eliminating adversity, McKay hopes to foster a better relationship between the town council and school committee. “We should be working together,” McKay said in a recent forum. “We shouldn’t be suing each other.”
On the Democratic ticket is present school committee member, Richard Welch, who has served since 2008. Presenting as a candidate for town council, Welch is calling for fiscal reform and sound management practices. Welch, who has been openly critical of the town’s pending lawsuits and resultant legal fees has called for NK to return its firefighters to their original schedule, while decreasing their overtime.On the fiscal responsibility side, Welch says he is supportive of consolidation initiatives both internally and externally as a means for reducing cost and increasing quality and efficiency in services.
Also on the Democratic side are Donald Souza and Tracey McCue, a current member of the Building Code Board of Appeals who says she is running because she is “concerned about the direction the town is heading”
A host of Independent candidates are also in the mix for November. Local businessman Richard Lamere says he is looking to restore the “quality of life” to Town. Lamere believes that residents are under attack from special interest and party politics and is also vocal about finding a solution to the situation between the NKFAA and the town and vows to make resolution a priority if elected.
Kevin Maloney is a self-employed product designer and small businessman who has been a town resident for 18 years. Actively involved in town programs, Maloney wants to bring new business to NK, increasing the tax base through business initiatives.
Colin O’Sullivan, a resident of Town for nine years is calling for a return to open government. O’Sullivan wants to eliminate the confrontational style of the current town government and says he supports multi-community consolidation efforts and economic development initiatives.
Running alongside Maloney and O’Sullivan is Rickey Thompson. Thompson, a resident of 19 years, says he supports the need for development of a business-friendly atmosphere in bringing business to the Post Road Corridor. Thompson believes that business should be directed to existing commercial areas, while open space is protected and preserved.
Rounding out the slate of Independent candidates is Dorman Hayes, a retired self-proclaimed “advocate candidate” who describes himself as a prohibitionist who would oppose the sale of alcohol in North Kingstown if elected.
On the School Committee side, there are four candidates seeking election. Lone incumbent, Lynda Avanzato, the endorsed Democrat, has served since 2008. Avanzato says she believes that the most important issue is that the school committee is tasked with providing a quality education for children, while faced with diminished funding. Avanzato’s platform is supportive of maintaining all programs including sports and the arts in providing a quality, well-rounded education.
Running as a team are endorsed Republicans Robert Jones, Cheryl Clarkin and Augustine (Gus) Manocchia. The candidates are campaigning in a unified approach promoting collaboration between the school committee and town council on budget items. Also on their agenda is consolidation of departments and services in order to maintain quality and reduce costs.