2012-08-30 / News

Two Republicans join Town Council race

Blake Dickinson and Paul Sprague represent the GOP
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Two Republicans – Blake Dickinson and Paul Sprague – are vying for seats on the Town Council. They join 13 other candidates also in the hunt for one of the five seats.

Blake Dickinson, 45, has lived on the island 33 years. He was born at Newport Hospital. Dickinson attended the Jamestown schools and North Kingstown High. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island where he studied economics and information systems. He is employed as an enterprise systems architect at Science Applications International Corporation in Middletown. Previously, he worked overseas for IBM as a software engineer but returned home in 2008 to raise his family.

Dickinson has served as the Republican Town Committee vice chairman since 2010. He also spent two years as president of the Taxpayers Association of Jamestown, but has recently resigned that post to focus on his campaign. His other community work includes fundraising for local and national charities.

He is married and has two young children who attend the Jamestown schools. His hobbies include restoring the turf at East Ferry Memorial Square.

Dickinson has enjoyed weighing in on the issues as both a private citizen and as the leader of the taxpayers association. But he has decided to run because he realized he can accomplish more as an elected representative.

If he is elected, he will continue efforts to make the Financial Town Meeting more inclusive and representative of the entire citizenry. According to Dickinson, having 500 people who attend the meeting to decide on the town’s $21 million budget does not seem representative, but town officials have resisted changing the rules.

Dickinson opposed the wind turbine because of the cost and because Taylor Point was not a feasible site. He said he will look for other renewable-energy projects based on different technologies. He will also work to maintain low taxes and to make Jamestown affordable for residents by looking for new revenue sources and finding more efficient ways to do business. For example, some services could be automated and made available over the Internet. He said putting the information online would also improve transparency and make the service more accessible and convenient.

Dickinson said the current councilors have done a good job with town finances but thinks there’s always room for improvement. Many families are concerned their children may not be able to afford to raise their families here, and even at current rates, taxes may be a burden for older residents who cannot afford the high property appraisals. He would also work to make the budget easier for residents to understand and evaluate.

Sprague, 40, was born in Indianapolis and moved to Jamestown 36 years ago with his par- ents. He went to the Jamestown schools and North Kingstown. Sprague studied business at the Community College of Rhode Island. At 18, he obtained a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard license for sail and auxiliary vehicles. Sprague also earned certification as an emergency medical technician.

Sprague is a businessman. He currently owns two companies: Island Energy, a home heating oil business, and the Island Scoop, an ice cream shop and café. Previously, he founded the Jamestown Newport Ferry Company, which he has since sold. He also started and operated several other island enterprises, including a taxi company and a remodeling company.

Sprague is a board member of the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce. His other community service includes six years with the Jamestown Fire Department. He has not held elected office.

His hobbies are boating with his family and clay shooting with his son and close friends. He is married to Niki and has two children.

Sprague is committed to maintaining the quality of life residents expect but said he will not bring an agenda to the Town Council if he is elected. He is concerned about the pace of change in town and believes the fact he grew up on the island gives him a valuable perspective about development here. Although change is inevitable, he said, town leaders must ensure that Jamestown remains a special place.

Sprague said he will evaluate all the issues and council initiatives as they arise to make sure they represent the best for the taxpayers. He is not running to accomplish any single objective, he said. He was satisfied to see the council ultimately reject the turbine project.

He will continue to “advocate” for the campground at Fort Getty, he said, because he believes the town’s financial solvency depends on revenues from the campers. He also wants to see any funds put back into Fort Getty used to maximize income and make the park attractive and accessible for everyone.

Sprague is pro-business and believes the town government should back local companies and support the mission of the Chamber of Commerce.

Sprague has concerns about the relationship between the police and the community. He sees a breakdown in the public’s perception of the police and says that situation needs to change. But, if elected, he would not interfere in the operation of any town department. It’s not the council’s job to run any departments, he said. He would instead look for the police chief and the town administrator to develop a public-relations program to heal the rift between law enforcement and the residents.

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