With the New Year almost here, Warwick elected officials took a moment last week to look back on the highlights of 2011 and their goals for 2012.
Mayor Scott Avedisian is happy with approval of the Warwick Station Development District master plan, which aims to create a pedestrian-friendly city center of office, hotel, retail and residential uses. He also said he is thrilled about the re-opening of the Warwick Mall and the addition of Jordan’s Furniture, Nordstrom Rack, as well as Red Robin.
“Things are really moving over there,” he said. “It’s nice to see the mall running through good times and bad. There are really good things happening and I hope that we can continue that trend.”
Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuano, who co-sponsored the station development district, is also pleased it was approved. He thinks it will be a “tremendous boost” for the city and praised William DePasquale, the director of the Planning Department, for his work on the matter.
With 2012 a few days away, he said he hopes the New Year will promote civil dialogue at council meetings so issues can be solved in a timely fashion, as tempers often flared at past meetings and slowed down business procedures.
“I want to get in front of that more,” he said. “We need to stay on track and not lose sight of things. Discussion is good and getting people involved in the process is good but every piece of business is important and hearing from everyone is important. I’m hoping we move into the New Year with a good focus.”
Similar to Avedisian, Ward 8 Councilman Raymond Gallucci said he is glad to see the mall, as well as NYLO Hotel, back in action. He is also joyful that the rest of his ward is up to par after the historic flood of 2010, as a drainage system was recently installed and completed off Route 5.
State Representative Joseph McNamara said his proudest political moment of 2011 was raising the age of mandatory school attendance to 18, while his best personal achievement was completing his 26th consecutive CVS 5-K.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson said she views her greatest accomplishment of the year as the connection she made with her constituents on a variety of legislations she sponsored, such as social justice issues, as well as topics concerning T.F. Green Airport.
She also said her primary political goal for 2012 is reaching an enforceable agreement with the airport representatives so they can live in harmony with constituents.
Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla said he is pleased that many of the ordinances and resolutions the council proposed were successful. Also, he is elated that his stepdaughter, Brianna, 19, made the women’s hockey team at the University of Rhode Island.
“I’m really happy for her,” he said.
Other council members are grateful for recovering from health problems, including Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis and Council President Bruce Place. Travis said she and her husband of 36 years, William, overcame various health obstacles, while Place, who turned 70 this year, was proclaimed cancer-free after battling lung cancer.
“Just being able to get up in the morning and enjoy life is probably my best personal accomplishment,” he said.
While beating cancer is quite the feat, Avedisian said he is improving his health, too, as he recently lost 26 pounds. He also advanced his education by earning a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Roger Williams in May.
“I’m a believer in lifelong learning,” said Avedisian.
In the upcoming year, he said he will “make sure I don’t skip days at the gym, try to be more patient and try to see other opinions more.”
Travis said she will continue her work with the homeless, as she said the issue is important to her, and hopes to set up regular events to serve the needy. Additionally, she’s thinking about the upcoming budget hearing.
“I know we’ll have a tough budget to go through and we’ll have to scratch and scrape, but we are going to manage it the best we can,” she said. “I also hope we finish the work on Danger Bridge.”
Colantuano said he plans to put his nose “to the grindstone” and build up his client base at his private business, a law firm located at 70 Jefferson Blvd. Additionally, his stepdaughter, Victoria Dalesio, 24, is set to marry in 2012 and he will be officiating the ceremony.
“I’m looking forward to our family growing,” said Colantuano.
Vella-Wilkinson hopes to schedule time for three sports she used to enjoy, such as boxing, hunting and ice fishing. She doesn’t box against opponents, rather, she prefers to work out on a punching bag, and participated in competitive shooting as a member of the National Rifle Association before joining the Navy in 1982.
“I used to hunt in upstate New York with my father as a child,” she said. “If he was still alive, knowing I’m in office, he would have probably been my key advisor. He loved the idea of politics but never ran.”
Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice and Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan also wished for good health. Donovan said, “I also want to keep the lines of communication open with the business communities, taxpayers and City Hall.”
As for holiday festivities, they are looking forward to spending time with their loved ones as the ball drops at midnight. Place and his wife, Debbie, have a home in Maine and will celebrate with a six-course feast that will include filet mignon, twice baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. In fact, it’s a tradition they’ve participated in for more than 30 years.
“We alternate houses with our friends,” he said. “We eat all night and put on our funny hats at midnight.”
Vella-Wilkinson has the same idea and will be cooking a combination of Neapolitan and Sicilian recipes she grew up loving in her hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. Her mother taught her how to prepare the dishes, which she will serve in her home she shares with her husband, Ken, on Church Avenue off Warwick Avenue.
“Years ago, we designed our kitchen with a big island in the center of it so we could entertain and it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s basically an open house for family and friends between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a nice way to relax.”
Their son, Ian, 29, will also visit. Vella-Wilkinson said she’s looking forward to spending time with him.
“We like to break out board games, tell stories and show each other photographs,” she said.
Colantuono said he and his wife, Maya, will also reminisce at home with family, friends and neighbors. They’ll enjoy sushi and “a lot of other food” with a fire roaring in the fireplace.
Merolla said he and wife Michelle will most likely go out to
dinner with friends and on New Year’s Day will visit St. Gregory Church to see their youngest daughter, Bella, 8, sing with the children’s choir. The start of the year will also bring new beginnings for his stepdaughter, Madison, 17, a senior at Toll Gate High School, who is looking at various colleges.
“I have three daughters so they are my number one concern and I hope they prosper in school,” said Merolla.
As far as the council is concerned, he said, “I hope we can have meaningful discussions and move forward together.”
McNamara said he and his wife will ring in the New Year with Chinese food and then watch a movie at home. He would like to see the economy improve in 2012 and folks getting back to work. He enjoys New Year’s because he thinks it “allows people time to have self-reflection and set new goals, both for themselves and their families.”
Of the bunch, only Vella-Wilkinson and Gallucci said they plan to run for office again. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not on their agenda.
For now, they hope everyone enjoys the holiday.
“We wish the constituents a happy and healthy New Year’s and a prosperous one, as well,” said Place.