CHARLESTOWN — Three incumbent and two new Town Council members took the oath of office Monday at a ceremony in the council chambers.
As members of the Charlestown Police Color Guard stood at attention, the Reverend Eileen Lindeman, Pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit, delivered the invocation, followed by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who administered the oath of office.
Gorbea encouraged the newly-elected council members to enjoy the moment.
“You know, we work really hard through an election, whether it be as a candidate or just in the administrative elections, and then, you just have this one moment where it all happens and we all get together, so it’s really wonderful,” she said.
Returning council members Virginia Lee, Bonita Van Slyke and Julie Carroccia then took their seats with new councilors Deborah Carney and David Wilkinson to elect the council President and Vice President. The presidency is offered to the member who received the greatest number of votes, which in this case was Lee, who accepted the nomination. Carney received the second-highest number of votes and accepted the nomination to the position of council Vice President.
With four of the five councilors members of the Charlestown Citizens Alliance political action committee, Carney is the only Charlestown Residents United member on the council. After a frequently acrimonious election campaign, councilors from both sides said they were looking forward to getting back to the town’s business, and to working together.
Lee said she hoped the town would not be surprised with issues such as a 2016 Federal Railroad Administration proposal, which has since been dropped, to build the Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass. The proposal that would have involved the construction of a new track through sections of Westerly, Charlestown and Richmond to accommodate high-speed Amtrak trains. The council also vigorously opposed a plan to use water from land owned by the Narragansett Indian Tribe as a backup source for the proposed Invenergy Clear River power plant in Burrillville. The town shares a drinking water aquifer with the tribe.
“We have a lot to do this year, with getting the comprehensive plan adopted and subsequent ordinances, and I hope there are no surprises like there have been in the past two years, because we have a lot to do for the town,” she said. “You couldn’t have a better town. It’s very well governed. The citizens are very involved.”
Carney, the new council Vice President, is a political veteran who served on the council from 2006 to 2008, and on the Chariho School Committee from 2008 to 2012.
“I’m looking forward to serving the people of Charlestown,” she said. “I said I would be their voice, and I will be their voice. I’m accessible, and very soon, that information is going to be on the town’s website.”
Carroccia, who oversaw the Solarize Charlestown program which encouraged homeowners to install solar energy systems, said she was looking forward to her second term of office.
“This is an opportunity to serve the people of the town, and that’s why I do it,” she said.
Van Slyke, who is beginning her third term, said she hoped the next two years would be relatively free of major challenges like the railroad proposal.
“I think this will be a great two years and hopefully, it will be a little less train and water and things,” she said.
New councilor David Wilkinson, who moved to Charlestown just two years ago, said he was eager to get to work.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “...Being a newcomer, I think it gave me an advantage, looking at both sides…I have a three-year-old, so I’m looking forward to keeping Charlestown the way it is for her for all her life.”