NEWS

On the cusp of change

Picozzi names transition team, focuses on selecting solicitor

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 11/12/20

By JOHN HOWELL In less than a week since Warwick voters gave him a mandate to guide the city for the upcoming two years, Mayor-elect Frank Picozzi has named a transition team, met with a majority of the City Council and added definition to his goal to

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NEWS

On the cusp of change

Picozzi names transition team, focuses on selecting solicitor

Posted

In less than a week since Warwick voters gave him a mandate to guide the city for the upcoming two years, Mayor-elect Frank Picozzi has named a transition team, met with a majority of the City Council and added definition to his goal to make Warwick government more transparent and engage citizens in the process.

That’s not all. Picozzi continues to run his business as an independent contractor, personally vinyl siding homes and doing window replacements and, of course, working on his digital Christmas display that attracts thousands of viewers starting with Black Friday.

Picozzi is also discovering what it’s like to have his every move scrutinized.

Within hours of announcing his transition team on Facebook, the Beacon received a complaint that it is made up entirely of white men and does not include a woman or person of color.

Picozzi had an answer. The team that is being chaired by former chief of staff for former Mayor Scott Avedisian, Mark Carruolo, and its members have all served in city government or held elective positions. He explained he picked people on the basis of their knowledge and experience with city government.

“I’m asking those who have the knowledge,” he said.

Also named to the transition team are former city solicitor Peter Ruggiero, former Warwick finance director Ernest Zmyslinski, School Committee member David Testa, former chair of the School Committee Charles Benson and his brother David Picozzi, former Department of Public Works director and chief of staff for Mayor Avedisian.

Throughout his campaign Picozzi stressed he is an independent and if elected would do away with political payoffs and nepotism. In announcing the transition team, he said none of the members are being paid. He reiterated he does not intend to hire his brother as part of his administration and is turning to him now because of his intimate knowledge of city operations.

Picozzi identified the selection of a solicitor as his top priority, adding that the team has selected four candidates for interviews. Picozzi said he will be looking to the solicitor for guidance on contracts and legal issues he will face upon taking office. He acknowledged the short-term challenge of making a selection now and calling on that candidate for advice when his [Picozzi’s] term doesn’t start until January and he can’t pay someone until then. Picozzi said he would be reviewing all non-classified positions, jobs including department directors that were filled by Mayor Joseph Solomon or Mayor Avedisian.

In a statement released by office Tuesday, Mayor Solomon said he received a letter from Picozzi informing him of the transition team.

“Throughout my tenure as an elected official, I have always put the needs of the City foremost in any decisions I have made, and I will continue to do so for the remainder of my term,” Solomon said.

The statement goes on to read, “During these uncertain times as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is more important than ever to ensure that our communities have stability and that our residents and our business community are reassured that services will continue to operate seamlessly, effectively, and efficiently through this transitional period. To that end, I am committed to doing whatever is necessary to assist the incoming administration so that we both can ensure the ongoing vitality and success of our great City.”

So as not to miss his self-imposed deadline to premiere the 2020 edition of his Christmas light show, Picozzi said council members dropped by his home over the weekend to chat as he worked. Who should succeed Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla as City Council president was on the minds of more than one of his visitors. Names that have been mentioned include Ed Ladouceur, Ward 5; Anthony Sinapi, Ward 8 and Steve McAllister, Ward 7. Ladouceur broke ranks with his Democratic colleagues and endorsed Picozzi three weeks prior to the election. One would imagine he’d be Picozzi’s favorite.

“I want nothing to do with the president’s race,” Picozzi asserted.

Picozzi’s win in a heavily Democratic city, during a pandemic and with his use of social media to campaign – the story of the underdog – caught the attention of the news media. Picozzi said he was pleased to do a two-hour interview with Mark Patinkin of the Providence Journal as he enjoys Patinkin’s writing and considers him a good reporter. Patinkin’s story appeared in Saturday’s paper. But that is it. He said he didn’t return a call from the New York Times because he’s not seeking publicity and had he granted an interview it most probably would have resulted in other media inquiries. Besides, he adds, the media attention sends the wrong message.

“It makes you look like you have a big ego,” he said.

On the other hand, Picozzi isn’t hesitant about spreading some good vibes.

Picozzi said he fully endorses early Christmas displays like that of Willow Glen condos on Oakland Beach Avenue.

“Warwick is going Christmas right now,” he said. “It cheers us up from COVID.”

Picozzi said he’s received scores of congratulatory messages on Facebook that he hopes to answer as well as cards and a personal visit from Jack Welch, who was principal of John Greene School when he was a fourth-grader. And then there is the tale of his signs. A friend who worked on his campaign took it upon himself to pickup signs from across the city. While he was doing that, a sign fell from the back of the truck. The friend stopped to pick it up. A woman motorist who witnessed the incident stopped, too. She apparently accused the friend of attempting to steal the signs despite his assertion he was bringing them to Picozzi headquarters. A cop arrived on the scene and then followed the truck to Picozzi headquarters.

Picozzi said he’d be keeping his headquarters for a while longer.

While Merolla offered his office at the Buttonwoods Annex as space for the transition team, Picozzi said that wouldn’t prove practical since the team meets at night. Until he’s on the city payroll, Picozzi said he’s doing his contractor jobs so he can pay his bills.

Comments

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bill123

This looks like an “influencer” team, not a “transition” team. The former chief of staff and former solicitor were connected with the Avedisian administration, which ended suddenly and prematurely, under circumstances not fully explained. Are these people really going to be helpful now? Were they helpful back then ? Most on this team would have little or no knowledge of the most current city operations. None will be part of the new administration. In my opinion, no one who is not part of the incoming administration should have this kind of closed-door access and influence.

Just prior to the end of the Avedisian administration, the city directors were (purportedly) asked to write reports on the current state of affairs, to assist the new Solomon administration, which would be taking office to fill the duration of the term. Whatever happened to those reports, and is the same courtesy being done for the new incoming mayor?

This article says the mayor-elect wants to hire a new solicitor. What happened to the current solicitor, or why tell the world you are firing him, before you are even officially mayor? Being transparent means no one should have to ask these kinds of questions.

I would like to suggest the mayor elect publish more detailed and frequent statements on his (facebook?) web page as news releases, and transition that to the city’s website after assuming office.

Saturday, November 14
bill123

I don’t like to be the only one commenting here, but unfortunately it looks like we’re not on the “cusp” of anything good. The fact that the mayor elect is not widely, openly and publicly advertising for the solicitor and other important positions after he officially takes office, but instead relies on insider-influencers, who have no accountability but whom he somehow certifies as qualified for this secretive pre-hiring process, says it all.

Sunday, November 15
FASTFRED WARD 4

stop crying its over . move on . more to come

Sunday, November 15
chrisp1968

I always agree with more openness and updates should be posted, but we definitely have to give Mayor Frank some room here to set things up too. He has a big job in front of him, lot of info to get familiar with I'm sure.

Tuesday, November 17