RICHMOND — Ronald Newman is the only Democrat on the Town Council but is nevertheless running as part of a unified slate of incumbents.
“I like working with both sides,” he said. “People should feel that, no matter what party they belong to, they should be able to talk to whoever is on the council.”
Newman, 62, is a marketing specialist and inspector for the Rhode Island Department of Agriculture. He attended Chariho High School and the University of Rhode Island where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications. His service on the Town Council began 24 years ago.
“I served in 1994 as the president, and then I served in1996 as the vice president,” he said. “Then I ran in 2014 and served on the council and again in 2016.”
Between his full-time job and serving on the council, Newman said there has been no time for other activities.
“I know the reality of what it takes to be on the council and the time it consumes,” he said.
Newman said the current council had managed to produce a realistic budget with nearly 80 percent of tax revenues allocated to the school district. He also praised the Department of Public Works and the Police Department.
“I believe we have one of the lowest crime rates in Rhode Island, and I think we have one of the best police departments, not just our officers, but the chief has done a incredible job,” he said.
Attracting more businesses, particularly clean industries, is one of Newman’s priorities.
“I think we have to look at more businesses in town that are environmentally sound, environmentally safe, which will increase the tax base,” he said.
Newman also supports the construction of a senior and community center on land the town recently purchased across the road from the Town Hall.
“We have to look at the senior/community center and we have to see how that evolves,” he said. “We really need it, but we have to find an affordable way to do that. We got the property across the street and I want to see that developed for the town.”
The current senior center occupies the top floor of the police department building. If the new center is built, the police will be able to expand into the second floor and modernize their facility.
“We don’t need a new police department,” Newman said. “I think that where the police department is would be perfect. Leave it there and bring the seniors right across the street.”
Newman’s quick sense of humor often lightens the mood during council meetings.
“Sometimes we get wrapped in things so tight we fail to see what the important issue is,” he said. “I think by all working together and kind of lightening up a little bit, we can focus better on what the problem may be.”
Talking with residents and listening to their concerns, Newman said, is the best part of being a councilor.
“It’s always wonderful hearing from the people in town, what they think, what’s on their minds,” he said. “This is all we’ve got. We’ve got each other, and we should be able to reach out to our representatives on the council. So good or bad, I always want to hear from the people and what they’re thinking and what their needs are, and I’ll continue to do that.”