The digital sign outside of Dr. Ken Rudman’s dental office is something that many of the nearly 30,000 motorists passing through the circulator in Apponaug probably notice – either actively or in passing – every day.
In the past two days, the sign has featured curious messages denoting a Rhode Island Man and Woman of the Year.
On Tuesday at 6 a.m. sharp, Rudman had his trusty office staff tune the sign to inform passersby that Lt. General Michael Flynn, the Middletown native and former national security advisor to President Donald Trump, had won the Man of the Year honor.
On Wednesday, again at 6 a.m., the sign declared Colonel Ann Claire Assumpico, the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and highest ranking woman in the history of the force, as the 2017 Woman of the Year.
The declarations are not from any official ballot service or any accredited award association – they’re merely the result of “thousands” of electronic inquiries made by Dr. Rudman through email and text messages. The titles, although they may appear to some to be positive declarations, are more about the neutral, overall influence of the individual – similar to TIME magazine’s Person of the Year.
“I’ve got a very fervent mind that gives me ideas,” Rudman said of the inspiration to seek out city approval to get his digital sign, and of how he gets inspiration for the variety of messages the sign displays – from well wishes and birthday greetings towards members of the community to funny jokes that sometimes get him angry calls from those lacking in the sense of humor department.
“I try to put stuff up there just to amuse people,” he said.
The members of his office staff look at one another and nod in knowing amusement when he goes back to check on a patient – he’s decked out in full scrubs while conducting this interview – agreeing that he’s a one-of-a-kind personality to work for.
As for why Flynn got the nod?
“What other man from Rhode Island has made this type of a national impact this year?” he asked. He said in an earlier phone call that Flynn’s cooperation with special investigator Robert Mueller may very well contribute to a possible impeachment of Trump.
“She’s the first ever woman head of the state police,” he said. “She started out as a prison guard and worked her way up through the ranks. She has basically been scandal free during her tenure.” However he did admit she has taken some heat lately for her handling of the incident where a suspect was able to steal a state police cruiser following his arrest.
Regardless of what the sign reads or whether or not you agree with its message on any particular day, Rudman’s sign is a welcome splash of originality along what might otherwise be just another banal morning commute.
And in case you were wondering, yes, Taylor Swift was in the running. She was first runner up.
“I think Assumpico is just a little more…real,” Rudman explained.