NORTH KINGSTOWN – The North Kingstown Democratic Primary in September will feature several candidates for town council, asking voters to choose five to go onto the General Election.
Because there are seven Democratic candidates for the town council–a comparatively large number–voters will be asked to choose five candidates in the Primary Election to go onto the General Election in November, where they will go up against Republican and Independent candidates.
All of the seven Democratic candidates were asked about their platforms and priorities, along with other questions, depending if they were running for election or reelection. Candidates Brad Artery and Dick Welch did not respond to requests for an interview.
(Below is the order in which the candidates will appear on the Primary ballot.)
Kimberly Ann Page
New candidate Kimberly Ann Page, a former member and chair of the North Kingstown School Committee, said she decided to get in the race for town council as a way to “give back” to her town.
“After my term [on the school committee] was completed in 2014, I worked on attaining my doctorate and teaching at the University of Rhode Island and New England Institute of Technology,” Page said. “In 2015, I was elected as the president of the Board of Directors for the North Kingstown Food Pantry. For the past five years, these endeavors were my main focus. I think it is time to give back to my town and I feel I can best do this by serving on the town council.”
The most pressing issue facing North Kingstown, and almost every town in Rhode Island, according to Page, is making sure businesses are able to reopen as a result of the COVID-19 closures, and “making sure we can provide town services in a safe manner.”
“The next two years will be difficult as many people are still not working, shopping, or going out as often as they used to do,” she said. “We need to make improvements to Post Road so it is attractive to new business, and work with the Quonset Development Corporation to ensure it continues to be the premier business park in New England.”
Page said that, if elected, she would work closely with town manager Ralph Mollis, and other town officials, to work on “creative solutions” on improvements to Post Road and Quonset, while also continuing to focus on the town’s “great school system.”
“My family moved to North Kingstown because of the great school system,” she said. “Our schools continue to be among the best in the state and for a much lower cost per student than other districts. By supporting our public education system, new businesses will want to locate in North Kingstown. In working together on all these issues, we can help to rebuild our town.”
Richard A. Welch
Richard Welch has had a long history on the council, first being elected in 2012 and then being named president for his 2016-2018 term. He also previously sat on the school committee. After serving on both the town council and school committee for several years, Welch has a great deal of experience in the inner workings of the municipal government.
Welch did not return requests for an interview.
Brad L. Artery
While Brad Artery also did not return requests for an interview, he wrote on his Facebook campaign page that, in both his personal and professional life, he has valued “public service, decisive leadership and compassion for my fellow citizens.” Artery, who is the CEO of a startup business in town, also served in the US Naval Academy as an active duty submariner for eight years.
“Over the past year, several North Kingstown friends and professionals asked me to run for town council, hoping I might leverage my experience in leadership and public service to ensure our municipality functions efficiently, effectively, and without bias,” he wrote. “I’m honored to take up that call and continue serving my community.”
Artery said that, if elected, he would focus on keeping taxes “fair and balanced,” with respect to the budget; maintaining a top-five school district in the state; welcoming proactive stances against bias; pushing Quonset and Post Road development; ensuring the Wickford Elementary School and town hall projects move forward to completion; finding balance and progress with unionized employees; and continuing to protect the environment while finding balance with development.
“I hope to join the town council as a caring, non-biased, professional and parent that cares deeply about our community,” he said.
Rickey L. Thompson
Rickey Thompson, a regular face at North Kingstown meetings, is also throwing his hat into the ring. Thompson, who previously ran for the council, attends just about every meeting of the town council, as well as many of the board, committee and commission meetings the town holds, giving him an “in-depth understanding” of the North Kingstown government.
He said he would bring “new ideas and a change in direction” to the council, if elected.
“As I continue to engage our town officials about the ‘same year after year issues,’ it is apparent that our town council is in need of new ideas and a change in direction,” Thompson said. “When elected to our town council, I am confident that my managerial experience combined with my knowledge and understanding of the issues facing North Kingstown town government will enable me to make positive contributions for residents and businesses alike.”
In Thompson’s view, the most pressing issues facing North Kingstown include year-over-year property tax increases, acceptable school funding, the town’s drinking water resources, the “continued stifling” of the town’s Post Road commercial district and the “neglect” of town assets and building, resulting in “fire sales of pennies on the dollar.”
Thompson gave a few examples of how he would tackle these issues, if he is elected. He said he would support using the multimillion-dollar budget surpluses and the increased Quonset PILOT revenue to “offset budget increases and to adequately fund our schools,” while also ensuring that town officials “safeguard” the town’s drinking water sources. Thompson also said he would want a complete review and simplification of the Post Road Corridor Plan and an evaluation of short and long-term budget prioritization of assets and building maintenance.
Katherine K. Anderson
Another challenger, Katherine Anderson, said she was inspired to run for town council because she “cares deeply” about North Kingstown’s future and the generations to come.
“I'm a social worker, political enthusiast, concerned citizen, and mother of a two-year-old daughter,” Anderson said. “I feel it is essential that the town council consider the impact of their decisions on generations to come–especially in regards to schools, the environment, community relations, and business development.”
“I want to see North Kingstown grow as a vibrant, welcoming, thriving community,” she continued. “Given my experience in community mental health, healthcare management, public policy, advocacy, and non-profit fundraising and development–experiences that differ greatly from those traditionally serving on the council–I can offer a new and sorely-needed perspective. It’s time for a change.”
Issues affecting North Kingstown, Anderson said, include impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy. She said special attention needed to be given to support small businesses and the expansion of opportunities for commercial development in Quonset and on Post Road.
She also said that schools had to be supported through “new and unprecedented challenges.”
“It is not only a moral imperative to support our education system,” she said, “we must also recognize that strong schools drive strong community, while attracting and retaining residents.”
Further, Anderson said the town should commit to “anti-racism and anti-discrimination efforts,” ensuring that North Kingstown is an “inclusive, welcoming community for all, and that at the systemic level the town council consider any issues of discrimination or bias as they arise.”
She also said that the town must make sure that the town hall renovation and Wickford Elementary School projects “move forward without delay.”
“A well-functioning, healthy town government must value dialogue over divisiveness, and must foster and celebrate civic participation and involvement,” Anderson said. “My experience as a community advocate and social worker ensures I can bring various stakeholders to the table and build consensus and cohesion. This basic civility and cooperation is fundamentally necessary to achieve any issues the town council may face.”
John D. Kliever
Jack Kliever, another new challenger, is a retired Newport police officer, which he said gave him the opportunity to see the “important and direct impact” the decisions of local leaders can have on a community.
“I decided that after retiring from my public safety career, I wanted to be involved in politics in some way,” he said. “I can't imagine any better time than now, with our current crises in national leadership, public health and the economy.”
Kliever said that “education, inclusion and infrastructure” were the three “big challenges for North Kingstown.”
“Education is the most important investment our community can make,” he said. “If elected, I will make it my first priority to ensure adequate funding for our schools.”
He went on to say that it had become clear that “not all members of our community feel as safe and welcome as they should.”
“I believe diversity is a strength not a weakness,” he said. “I will promote an inclusive tone from the top, and ensure that our civil servants are eager to serve all residents.”
There were also numerous infrastructure projects that Kliever said had been delayed or were proceeding slowly, such as the water system, sewer installations, Post Road and the town hall renovations. If elected, Kliever said he would encourage the town to move forward with these projects.
“Some of these projects require funding and/or cooperation from the state and private entities,” he said. “I will encourage the town staff to move forward with these projects, and to have plans ready to go if federal funding becomes available due to the economic crisis.”
Gregory A. Mancini
The current town council president, Greg Mancini, is also running for reelection. Mancini was first elected to the council in 2018, receiving the highest number of votes out of all the candidates.
He said that the most “important accomplishment” the council made in the past two years was to “restore civility and create a cooperative and bipartisan atmosphere on the council.”
“I think this set the tone for a number of important accomplishments,” he said.
Some major highlights of the past two years include settling several lawsuits at “very little cost,” as well as moving forward with both the renovations of the currently vacant town hall and the sale of Wickford Elementary School for redevelopment.
Mancini went on to say that the town council held a “first of its kind” Post Road workshop to develop policies that will enhance the corridor, while also passing a no tax increase budget.
If reelected, Mancini said that he would continue to focus on investing in the town’s schools, ensuring that the town hall renovations and the Wickford El projects are completed, developing policies to enhance Post Road, and “doing all of that while protecting our environment and drinking water supply.”
“If re-elected, I would work collaboratively with the school committee and the school department to ensure that our schools get the resources that they need,” he continued. “I would also do everything in my power to ensure that the most pressing issues mentioned above are addressed forthwith.”
Page, Welch, Artery and Thompson will appear on the ballot with an asterisk next to their names, indicating that they have been endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee.
The Primary Election will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 8. For information on polling locations and important dates leading up to the election, visit either northkingstown.org/153/Board-of-Canvassers or vote.sos.ri.gov.
Profiles of Republican and Independent candidates for the North Kingstown Town Council, and all candidates for the Exeter Town Council, will appear in next week’s Standard Times.
Republican and Independent candidates for North Kingstown Town Council will not have to compete in a Primary Election, nor will candidates for Exeter Town Council, instead going straight to the General Election in November.