First Gentleman Moffit puts family first

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Andy Moffit admitted to the Warwick Rotary Club that being the state’s first First Gentleman is “a kind of strange experience.”

“It starts with the name,” he said. And then, he continued, “what do we do?” Still, another question is what does the governor’s office “have this guy do?”

Moffit has found plenty to do, embracing two causes that he feels strongly about and ones as husband to Governor Gina Raimondo he can affect. He is troubled that one of eight Rhode Island households doesn’t know where their next meal is going to come from. Moffit has used his position to assist the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and has been in the forefront of bringing awareness to the issue of food insecurity. He has also been out front as the chair of an advisory committee comprised of representatives from departments, agencies and groups dealing with recreation, health and the environment in assessing the state’s parks and recreational opportunities as they impact the state’s quality of life. In brief, as he told Rotarians Thursday, is that the state is “not getting the most out of it.”

But there’s another side to Moffit’s role as the state’s First Gentleman that isn’t as public. He aims to create an environment for the governor so that “when she comes home this is the place where she’s Gina; she’s mom.” He said he purposely avoids talking about the hot issues of the day and asks the open-ended questions, “how way your day…what would you like for dinner?”

He said he is looking to savor the time they have as a family.

“The kids are kids and only going to be kids once,” he said.

In response to questions from the luncheon audience of more than 50, Moffit said this time is a “chapter” in their lives, pointing out that unlike many states that have a governor’s mansion where the family lives, they get to be home.

“We live a relatively normal life. I still cut the grass,” he said to laughter.

Moffit said there are times that Raimondo’s critics get under his skin and he has to hold back. A concern, he said, is that the children likewise understand differing about their mother.

Moffit is director of industry learning at the Boston office of McKinsey & Company, an international firm that serves as an adviser to businesses, government and institutions. He is part of a team that develops learning and training for the firm’s 10,000 consultants.

Moffit campaigned for Raimondo’s emphasis on “jobs, jobs and jobs” and her initiative for two years of free college education. There was no argument with the governor’s priority on building the state’s economy, which Moffit pointed out is interlinked to an educated workforce.

But he got pushback over free tuition at the state institutions. There was the opinion that the taxpayers shouldn’t pick up the tab for students failing to show ambition and “just taking up space.” Moffit also clarified that this is a “last dollar” plan, meaning the state would pick up tuition after Pell grants and financial aid was calculated.

Club member Robert DeGregorio, who said he doesn’t favor the plan, thought that more funding should go into apprentice-type programs because “we need people in the trades” and not everyone is cut out to be a college student.

Member Christine Harkins cited how European countries are funding college educations, calling Raimondo’s proposal “marvelous…we need the best minds.”

Moffit pointed out that not only is the initiative to help those best minds but to also open opportunities for so many more. In addition, he said, it is preparing them for the demands of the world.

“It helps get to what is now the new finish line,” he said.

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