WOONSOCKET – Shifting gears from campaigning to governing, mayor-elect Lisa Baldelli-Hunt named the head of her transition efforts and called for a meeting with the Budget Commission within 10 days.
In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, Baldelli-Hunt said she wants the state-appointed commission to brief her on the condition of the city’s finances.
“Now that the campaign is over, it’s time to start doing the important work of preparing to take office in December,” said Baldelli-Hunt.
The commission said two weeks ago that an unaudited analysis of the fiscal 2013 operating budget is projecting a $2.36 million surplus, but that the cumulative deficit stands at about $4.046 million.
Baldelli-Hunt campaigned, in part, on a platform of repealing the Budget Commission, which might take an act of the legislature. When the commission was seated in May 2012 under the Fiscal Stability Act, members were projecting that the city would land roughly $100 million in the hole by 2017 without rollbacks in health benefits for active employees, cuts in pension benefits and new taxes.
The commission has since enacted a five-year plan members say will restore the city to solvency and avert receivership.
The FSA requires the mayor and city council president to serve on the panel, but his participation was a kiss of political death for Mayor Leo T. Fontaine in Tuesday’s elections. He lost to Baldelli-Hunt, the sitting Democratic state representative from House District 49, by a margin of more than 2-1. Council President John Ward’s long political career in the city also came to a screeching halt.
Acting Commission Chairwoman Dina Dutremble said she is disappointed to see the two elected officials leaving the panel, but she looks forward to working with Baldelli-Hunt and whoever is named council president. Councilman Robert Moreau, the top vote-getter in the council races, has expressed an interest in the position.
“I do look forward to working with the new mayor,” said Dutremble. “I think she’s got a lot of good ideas and I look forward to having a good working relationship with her.”
In other business, Baldelli-Hunt also announced that she has named her campaign manager, Cumberland financial advisor Richard Lepine, to serve as chairman of her transition effort, which would be composed of advisory and administrative transition teams. She said she would announce who the members of both teams are next week.
“Richard Lepine did a wonderful job as my campaign manager and I’m honored to have him direct our transition effort and make sure that when I take office, we are ready to hit the ground running and start implementing my plan to get Woonsocket back on track.”
Lepine is a native of Woonsocket and the founder and president of Lepine Financial Advisors, Inc. He is a member of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Woonsocket Investment Board for the police and fire pension fund. In 2007, he served as grand marshal of the Autumnfest Parade and has been active in a number of non-profit organizations over the years.
“I look forward to announcing the names of all of the transition team members next week and having the chance to sit down with the budget commission to get a clear picture of the city’s finances,” said Baldelli-Hunt. “There’s a great deal of work to be done in the weeks ahead and I look forward to working with Mayor Fontaine and his team to ensure a smooth transition on behalf of the people of Woonsocket.”
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