NORTH KINGSTOWN – President Greg A. Mancini will continue to serve at the helm of the North Kingstown Town Council, though his reelection to the position did not come without a challenge.
While Mancini received the most votes out of any candidate this past election, and quite possibly the most votes of any candidate in town history, Councilwoman Mary K. Brimer expressed her hopes to see Kimberly Ann Page take up the leadership position.
“Some of you may be a little caught off-guard by this nomination,” Brimer acknowledged at Monday night’s town council meeting, sharing that there were “several reasons” for choosing someone other than the highest vote-getter.
Although Page declined the nomination before Brimer could list any of her reasons, those reasons included the fact that Page was “the only candidate to receive a 100 percent endorsement from the North Kingstown Democratic Town Committee,” and that she received the most votes out of the new female majority of the council.
“The voters of North Kingstown have spoken, and this council has a female majority,” Brimer said. “This is a significant outcome for women and equality.”
Despite her slightly unorthodox nomination, the councilwoman still took a moment to express how well she and Mancini have worked together, crediting the two of them “for fostering an atmosphere of respectful comradery.”
As new council members, they weren’t familiar with old grudges, and having elected officials who leaned to the center at times and found middle ground with members of the opposite party, that meant “the council vote was not a slam dunk, and required full discussion before voting.”
And while her time canvassing from door-to-door only highlighted the divide within the nation and the community, according to Brimer, she saw Page as “literally the bridge between the Republicans and the Democrats – both old and new.”
“I have no doubt that Greg Mancini will carry out the duties for town council president well, but Kimberly [Anne Page] represents both democrats and republicans, and independents,” Brimer said. “Our community needs leadership right now.”
Apart from Brimer, Councilman Kerry P. McKay was the only other member of the council to back Page as town council president.
The nomination for Mancini to continue on in his leadership role, however, came from Page.
His first words of thanks were directed towards his fellow council members who would no longer be serving in office, as well as the town clerk, her staff, the board of canvassers and poll workers “for running a smooth election.” He also thanked the citizens of North Kingstown for helping to reelect him, as well as his campaign volunteers and family members who helped to make this possible.
According to Mancini, he ran for local office for two reasons. One of his main goals, of course, was to improve the community, but to also inspire more people to get involved and vote – particularly young people.
“Although I’m certainly not taking credit for it, I’m really pleased to see a dramatic increase in citizen participation in this election,” Mancini said. “You may not know it, but all top-five vote-getters for town council in this election each received more than every top vote getter since 2002 – and it appears that the top-two vote-getters received more votes than any other top finisher of record.”
“Clearly, more people are participating in our democracy,” he added. “We can’t let them down.”
One of the first, and most pressing tasks for this council will be to deal with the effects and challenges of COVID-19, according to Mancini.
He acknowledged the hard work already taking place throughout North Kingstown, from town employees and first responders, to community members working on the frontlines of this pandemic. The best way to thank them, he said, would be to listen to the science and the directions of the medical community.
“I know it is difficult for all of us, but we must act together to keep one another safe,” Mancini said.
His goals for the council over the next two years include tackling the financial uncertainty that has accompanied this pandemic, supporting the district’s schools “to an extent reasonably possible,” and finishing projects like the renovations to town hall and the Wickford Elementary School development.
Another pressing issue will be ensuring that the Wickford Junction Station remains open.
Topics which Mancini hopes to receive input from community members and experts on include another Post Road workshop, the town’s rapid growth, and developing a long-term solution for the old town house.
“There are many other challenges, including working with DOT to address dangerous intersections, unacceptable traffic conditions in some parts of town, and the possibility of sidewalks, water infrastructure challenges, and continued improvements to our playgrounds just to name a few,”Mancini said. “Regardless of the challenge it is my hope that we make a good faith attempt to address pending issues as opposed to leaving them for another day or another council.”
“I believe that is our job and that is what the people elected us to do,” he added.
His first action as president of the council was nominating Page to take up the position of president pro tem.
In addition to new council members being sworn into office, Monday night’s Zoom meeting was also a chance to say goodbye to those who would not be returning to office.
Town Manager A. Ralph Mollis extended words of thanks to outgoing Councilmen Richard A. Welch and Kevin V. Maloney, for their years of service and dedication to the council and their community. Although Maloney only began serving with the previous council after Councilwoman Stacey L. Elliott announced her unexpected resignation in late June, he’d served two other terms on the council.
“You guys have a heavy burden on your shoulders,” Maloney said. “I think fiscally, it’s going to be very challenging and there’s a lot of citizens of the town that are really struggling right now. I wish you guys the best in looking out for everybody.”
For Councilman Welch, the meeting marked the close of an entire decade of public service – four on school committee and six on town council.
“It’s been a pleasure helping people when I could, making things better for all of the citizens of North Kingstown,” Welch said, remarking how much he was looking forward to his Monday nights at home.
And while they didn’t agree on everything, Welch said it was a pleasure to serve beside his fellow council members.
“It’s not a question of disagreeing with people – it’s a question of making sure we always have our heart in the right place and we’re doing it for the right reasons – and that is for the good people of North Kingstown,” he said.