WOONSOCKET – Ending weeks of speculation, Mayor-elect Lisa Baldelli-Hunt has announced who the key members of her administration will be, a list that includes a few surprises.
One of the biggest is the return of former Planning Director Joel D. Mathews. Except for a brief hiatus during the 1980s, Mathews had worked continuously for the city from 1973 to 2011. Trained as a landscape architect, he gained a reputation as a special projects manager and all-around problem-solver during the era of former Mayor Susan D. Menard.
A former Woonsocket resident, he moved to Sutton, Mass., after he retired. He succeeds Planning Director Paulette Miller, who had held the position for most of the time since Mathews retired.
Like everyone else on Baldelli-Hunt’s list of appointees, his title – for now, anyway – will be preceded by the modifier “acting,” suggesting the position is only temporary. Baldelli-Hunt said Mathews would join the administration under a rule that allows retirees to work up to 75 days per year, but that could change. State retirees can have their status suspended if they want to return to the public sector indefinitely.
“Everybody is hired in an acting capacity...it doesn’t mean they’re all necessarily going to be moving into directorships,” she said. “But there is certainly a strong possibility most of them will.”
Another big surprise is the appointment of outgoing Councilman Marc A. Dubois as public safety director, a position that has, for many years, been absorbed by the mayor. A retired policeman, Dubois ran for council as part of the Baldelli-Hunt team and lost by 84 votes. Dubois is currently employed at Northern Rhode Island Community Services as a health care liaison and was previously a member of the School Committee before he was elected to his first term on the council in 2011.
Also, Linda Plays, who had served as the mayor’s de facto executive secretary without the title, will be retained as acting human services director. That position has not been filled in a full-time capacity for at least four years. The positions of human resources and economic development director were consolidated, with a combined pay package just shy of $80,000. The 2014 budget says Matthew Wojcik, who held the title, received most of the package, $63,910 a year, for the human services role, the balance for economic development.
Wojcik and Public Works Director Sheila McGauvran have been notified that they no longer have jobs with the city, according to Baldelli-Hunt. No replacement was announced for economic development director; Baldelli-Hunt, a real estate investor, announced previously that she would take over the duties of that position as part of her mayoral charge.
Acting Public Works Director Alan R. Brodd of North Smithfield has been named to succeed McGauvran. Brodd is a former public works director with the town of Cumberland.
The list of appointments also includes:
• State Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston) as acting city solicitor, succeeding Joseph P. Carroll. Marcello has been a state representative for eight years and is currently employed as a lawyer with the firm Morrison Mahoney. He was the author of a 2012 update to the state’s Access to Public Records Act designed to enhance public access to government documents.
• Richard P. Kearns, a former state representative and lawyer who served as a key advisor to the Baldelli-Hunt mayoral campaign, will be appointed acting director of administration.
• Finance Director Thomas M. Bruce III, who has served as finance director to both Fontaine and former Mayor Menard, will be appointed acting finance director. A former forensic auditor for the state police, Bruce is highly regarded in municipal finance circles and has been widely praised for his stewardship during the prevailing financial crisis in the city. He’s been a key figure in leading at least two other communities through financial challenges, including West Warwick and Johnston.
• Susan E. Gaulin, who works is the children’s section of the Woonsocket Harris Public Library, will be appointed acting administrative aide to the mayor.
Baldelli-Hunt said she never had to ask anyone twice whether they wanted to be part of her team. She said she chose individuals she is confident possess the skills and enthusiasm to pull the struggling city up by its bootstraps.
“I specifically reached out to individuals that we felt would be able to begin working immediately with a strong understanding of the needs of the city so we could put into action whatever plan we feel is appropriate to move Woonsocket into a better position,” she said.
Still, Baldelli-Hunt made it plain that her new staff must demonstrate in the coming weeks that they are worthy of permanent positions. She said, “I have to be certain that everyone on this team can work in a fashion that is in the best interest of the city. I have to be certain that everyone on this team has the vision that’s necessary to move Woonsocket out of this depressed state that it’s in.”
Baldelli-Hunt will be sworn in as mayor by House Speaker Gordon Fox during an inaugural ceremony at the Stadium Theatre that begins at 7 p.m. The doors open a half-hour earlier. Also, seven members of the City Council will be sworn in for their new term, including two newcomers, Garrett S. Mancieri and Melissa Murray. Returning incumbents are Albert G. Brien, Christopher Beauchamp, Daniel Gendron, Roger G. Jalette Sr. and Robert Moreau.
At 8 p.m., the newly seated City Council will hold an organization meeting to select a new council president and choose designees for several other key positions. Personnel Director Christina Harmon-Duarte is expected to succeed Andrea Bicki as city clerk. Howard S. Portney will take over for Thomas Dickinson as probate judge. Municipal Court Judge Lloyd Gariepy is expected to be reappointed as Municipal Court Judge.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo