Newly elected chairman of the Democratic City Committee Rob Farrell has lived all his life in the Meadowbrook section of Warwick and worked at the same location just a few blocks away since he was 8 years old.
“I emptied the garbage and cleaned up,” Farrell says of his first job at the Meadowbrook Lanes on Warwick.
Today he is general manager of the bowling alley owned by attorney John Paterra. He still does some of the same jobs, plus a lot more.
Over the years, Farrell has gotten to know a lot of people, but few played such a role in his life as the late John DelGiudice. DelGiudice was the Ward 5 councilman and sparked Farrell’s interest in politics. Farrell also became close friends with DelGiudice’s son, Timothy, and served as one of Tim’s best men in his wedding.
With fondness, Farrell remembers the cookouts the senior DelGiudice held where council members, regardless of party affiliation, turned out.
“Politics was fun,” he said of those times and it is something he aims to bring back to the party.
Farrell joined the Ward 5 Democratic Committee when the senior DelGiudice was alive and Farrell went on to become its chairman about eight years ago. He said in an interview Friday that he hadn’t given the job of party chairman much thought until a week ago Saturday, when he called then party chairman Jeff Gofton to ask if there were any candidates for the job. He said he was told, “Anyone who wants it can have it.”
Later he learned “through the grape vine” that former mayor Charles Donovan was actively pursuing the seat.
He says he gave the job additional thought but really didn’t consider himself a candidate until he talked to his wife and Paterra.
“I was thinking about it and I knew I was going to need some extra time,” he said.
Both his wife and Paterra gave him the green light. All of that apparently happened within hours of Wednesday evening’s city committee meeting. From there, Farrell’s support came together quickly. He won the post with 24 votes to Donovan’s 9.
Now he speaks energetically of re-energizing the party.
“The next few years are very important for the Democratic Party,” he said.
Farrell thinks Mayor Scott Avedisian won’t seek re-election in 2014, although he confesses he has no way of knowing that.
“I was of the opinion Scott wasn’t going four and two years ago,” he said.
Should Avedisian not seek re-election in 2014, Farrell thinks many Democrats will step forward and a primary will be inevitable.
“In a perfect world, we would not have a primary,” he said, “but I don’t see that happening.”
On the other hand, if Avedisian stays, finding a viable candidate could be difficult.
This year, for the first time in the city’s history, there was no Democratic candidate on the ballot for mayor. Avedisian faced a challenge from Jack Kirby, who had run as a Democrat in 2010, but was an independent last year.
Farrell sees holding affordable social events aimed at building camaraderie rather than filling party coffers as a way of bringing Democrats together. He didn’t take sides in what has been portrayed as a contest between Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis and Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla for council president. He said they would both be good, adding, “Donna’s one of the hardest working council members.”
Farrell is the stepfather to a son in the Air Force who is stationed in South Korea. Farrell is a charter member and former president of the Warwick Lions Club. He is also active with Join Our Neighborhood and Help, JONAH and has been running the Tuesday cruise nights at Oakland Beach.
He coached the PAL bowling league that went on to win the national championship in 2010.
Strangely, for someone who spends a lot of his time at a bowling ally, Farrell doesn’t bowl these days. And now leading the city Democrats, he’ll be looking to score strikes of a different nature.