Islander named Portsmouth’s town administrator
Jamestown’s David Dolce was recently named Portsmouth’s interim town administrator. He was sworn in during the Aug. 22 Portsmouth Town Council meeting to replace outgoing manager, Robert Driscoll, who has retired.
He expects to serve four to six months while the councilors search for a new town administrator, he said. Dolce has been Portsmouth’s tax assessor and collector for 15 years and is taking a leave of absence from that job, as required by the town charter which restricts town employees from holding dual positions.
Dolce, who is married to wife Jill and father of three grown daughters, Liesel, 25, Alexandra, 22, and Victoria, 19, offered to serve because he wanted a new challenge, he said. He and his wife, a neonatal intensive care unit nurse at Women and Infants Hospital, are becoming emptynesters, he said, and this opportunity would allow him to use his best talents - dealing with people and helping the community move ahead.
Dolce went into local government after two successful private sector careers, one as a real estate appraiser and one as a commercial fisherman. After graduating from Bryant College with a degree in business administration, Dolce took a job on a lobster boat. “It was 1979. Jimmy Carter was president.” Dolce added that unemployment was rampant.
“I did very well on fishing boats,” he said. “I worked on a 65- and an 85-foot offshore lobster boat.” The work took him 100 miles or so out to sea.
He made enough money to get married in 1981, buy a little house in Jamestown and put his wife through Salve Regina University’s nursing program. He was the firstmate in charge of the mechanics and in line for captain. But when his first child was about to arrive, he decided he needed a shore job. Dolce and his crew were out by Block Island during the “Perfect Storm,” and he decided the risk was too great with a family. He went into real estate appraisals, which ultimately led him to his post as Portsmouth’s tax assessor and collector.
“I’m the only one in the state that does both,” he said. The position, he added, can call for some delicacy.
“It’s not the easiest job in town,” Dolce said, “but I’ve been able to build very good relationships by listening to the residents’ concerns and explaining the process and why we do things the way we need to.” Dolce said people may not like paying taxes, but they do cooperate when they see they have received fair treatment.
“That’s one of the things I’m good at,” he said.
Although he loves Portsmouth, he does not covet the top job himself, but is not surprised some people believe he may change his mind.
“A lot of people might feel that way,” he said. “I was clear about it. I’m taking a temporary leave of absence as required by the town charter.” He expects to return to his assessor and collector job, he said.
Portsmouth Town Council President Joseph Robicheau said Dolce will be reappointed as tax assessor if he steps down as interim town administrator.
“So far, he’s indicated he doesn’t want the job,” the council president said. “He might change his mind once he’s in it.”
Dolce and David P. Faucher, the Portsmouth finance director, applied for the interim post, according to Robicheau.
“We advertised to all the department heads,” he said, “because we wanted somebody already in place” and someone who already knew the ropes.
Faucher has indicated he will apply for the full-time job, Robicheau said. He added that the council has put out a request for proposals for a recruiter to find a new man for the job. So far, there have been no replies, but likely that’s due to the fact it’s a recent request for proposal.
“It just hit the streets,” he said.
Driscoll’s last official day on the job was Aug. 21. “He was a good town administrator, and now he’s moving on with his life,” Robicheau said.
Driscoll did not return calls asking for comment, but Robicheau said Driscoll was not forced out of the job, which he held for some 20 years.
“He said he would retire,” Robicheau said. “That was back in May or maybe June. He said he was ready to retire, and he would stay on as long as the council wanted him to or until we found a replacement. So, we decided to look for a replacement.”
Dolce said Driscoll had intended to leave in February but then stayed on to help the councilors through the annual budget.
“It’s a new council,” he said.
Dolce also has some political experience. He served on Jamestown’s Town Council and School Committee as well as other town boards.
“It gave me a great appreciation of people who serve,” he said. “I might disagree with them, but you’ll never find me criticizing.