Meet the Town Council candidates
Fifteen people – 12 men and three women – have thrown their hats into the ring, hoping to win, or hold on to, a seat on the Town Council.
The Jamestown Press reached all the hopefuls to obtain answers to three questions: How long have they lived in Jamestown; why are they running; and what do they think the biggest problem is facing the town.
Candidate William Marsh said he has decided to withdraw from the race and did not answer questions.
Robert Bowen, a Democratic incumbent, has lived in Jamestown 13 years. He is seeking a new term “to continue the work we’ve been doing.” Asked about the biggest problem facing Jamestown, Bowen said he didn’t see any major crisis coming. “I don’t think we have really big problems,” he said. “I think the town is doing well. We have some miscommunications that need to be worked on with better information sharing.”
Dan Capuano, an Independent, has resided in town for 29 years. He is running because Jamestown’s local government needs the kind of stability a business leader can provide, he said. “Times are changing. A businessman will look at it more effectively. I ran a couple of businesses. I currently run a heavy-equipment-leasing business.” In his view, the biggest problem facing Jamestown is water quality. He also has concerns about infrastructure and said the lack of downtown parking is also a problem.
Blake Dickinson, Republican, is the president of the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown. He has lived on the island 32 years, ever “since returning on the ferry boat from Newport Hospital in 1967,” minus 12 years he spent nearby in Saunderstown. He is running “to give back,” he said. He sees the economy as the biggest problem Jamestown faces. “There are many challenges facing Jamestown both from the state and in today’s economy,” he said. “To limit these affects on Jamestown taxpayers will require sound financial choices.”
William Harsch, who filed as an Independent, has been a resident in town 48 years, since his college graduation, and before that, he also vacationed here as a youngster. He is running to make sure Jamestown’s leaders have the foresight to protect the community from outside forces, such as developers who are working in the General Assembly to effect zoning and land use changes. “That sort of thing can hit like an afternoon thunderstorm,” he said. Harsch has worked in state government and also worked in the White House. “I have been around the block,” he said. The biggest problem facing Jamestown is balancing property taxes, he said.
Evan Katz, who is running as an Independent, is a lifelong Jamestowner of 23 years. He is running because he wants to become more involved in community life. In his view, the biggest problems Jamestown faces are the obvious ones. “There are two: the wind turbine and what to do at Fort Getty. If I had to narrow it down to one, I’d say Fort Getty.”
George Levesque, a Republican who has lived in Jamestown 32 years, decided to run for Town Council because he senses a general dissatisfaction with the way the town is being run, particularly with the way local officials have treated the citizens during public meetings. The biggest problem? “It’s trying to figure out how to make camels smaller and needles bigger.”
Mary Meagher, a Democrat, has been a Jamestown resident 25 years and owned a house here since 1979. She has been active on the Fort Getty Master Plan and on the Buildings and Facilities Committee. She is running because of her expertise in land use and building use, she said. Her skills are “needed for this particular period in Jamestown,” she said. She also is concerned about the tone at public meetings and wants to make local government more inclusive and encourage more people to participate. Asked about Jamestown’s biggest problem, Meagher did not want to use the word “problem,” but said the biggest issue would be how to keep “this special place as wonderful as it is.”
Eugene Mihaly, a Democrat, moved to Jamestown two years ago after living around the world. He has been active in community affairs and in local government. Mihaly is president of the board of trustees of the Jamestown Philomenian Library, and is also president of Common Cause of Rhode Island, the government watchdog organization. “Our town government has to be civil, inclusive, open to all ideas and, above all, competent,” he said. The biggest problem? “This is an exceptional community. The challenge is to keep it that way in an external economic and political environment that promises to be increasingly troubled and tough to navigate.”
William Murphy, a Democratic incumbent, has 41 years in town, with some absences due to military service. “I’m running for re-election because I still have things I have not accomplished,” he said. Murphy wants Jamestown to adopt an auxiliary housing ordinance. He also has recently proposed a buy-local ordinance to give town businesses preferential treatment. One of the priorities is to settle the wind turbine question, he said. Murphy sees maintaining Jamestown as an affordable place to live as the big issue. Part of that solution involves settling the future of Fort Getty. “I think it is still trying to maintain affordability,” he said.
Michael Schnack, a Democrat and the current Town Council president, has lived in Jamestown since 1997. He is running “to continue what I’ve done in my last term: to run the town effectively and keep taxes low while maintaining the level of services,” he said. Schnack also doesn’t see any big problems on the horizon. “I don’t think we have any major problems,” he said. “We have maintaining our infrastructure, but we’re addressing that. I don’t see any major problems or hurdles ahead.”
Paul Sprague, a Republican, moved to Jamestown when he was 4 and has lived here 36 years. He is running because he has experience starting and running local businesses and believes the council should work to maintain Jamestown’s small-town atmosphere, while promoting business. He does not see any one problem facing the community but says there are several issues. “In today’s economy,” he said, “it is important to make sound financial choices which will earn the town money, reinvest into the infrastructure, keep the tax rate down, and invest in our students.”
Thomas Tighe, a Democrat, has lived in town 45 years. He is running because he thinks it’s time for a change on the Town Council and wants the local government to “be responsive to people and listen to them,” he said. The biggest problems he sees facing Jamestown are Fort Getty and the wind turbine.
Kristine Trocki, a Democrat, has lived in downtown Jamestown for 12 years. She is a board member on the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce and is a local business owner. “I’m running because I love this town,” she said. “The town has supported both myself and my son, and now that he is going off to college I feel that it is now the perfect opportunity for me to give back to my community.” Biggest issue facing Jamestown? “We’re a unique island community blessed with so many resources that are competing for limited budgets in this economy that I think need to be addressed, both in the present, but also with future growth in mind. They need to be negotiated with a long-term, sustainable vision and not just piecemeal.”
Michael G. White, a Democratic incumbent, has lived in Jamestown 22 years. “I enjoy serving the town,” he said. “It’s a nice small community.” Why does he want to run for re-election? “It’s kind of a cool job.” He also wants to “keep the town running as smoothly as it has been.” White says that Jamestown has an advantage over most communities largely because the finances “run in the black” and the town government has great management. Problems? “The main issues are Fort Getty and what are we going to do about the wind turbine.”
Ellen Winsor, an Independent incumbent, has lived in Jamestown 29 years. She is running to continue her efforts on job creation and economic growth. “The better off the rest of Rhode Island is, the less Jamestown, which is more fiscally sound, will be burdened,” she said. She also wants Jamestown to develop a regional approach to solving problems. For an example, Winsor pointed to the efforts to stop Hess Oil from building an LNG terminal in Narragansett Bay, which resulted in collaborations with taxpayer groups, nonprofi t organizations and municipal governments. She said the biggest problems facing Jamestown is infrastructure and water quality.