Leaders reflect on first year: McAllister touts Council culture change

Posted 1/5/22

When Council President Steve McAllister lobbied his colleagues to vote for him to wield the gavel at Council meetings he said he wanted to change the culture of their meetings. 

Now, one year …

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Leaders reflect on first year: McAllister touts Council culture change


When Council President Steve McAllister lobbied his colleagues to vote for him to wield the gavel at Council meetings he said he wanted to change the culture of their meetings. 

Now, one year later Council President McAllister feels he was successful in doing that. 

One of the ways that he did so was by implementing a guest speaker at one meeting each month and by having guest to lead the Council in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

McAllister believes it is important to give opportunities for different non-profit organizations, different boards and commissions and members of the community to be heard by the entire Council. 

“One of the things that I am most proud of is how we invited new voices to come in,” McAllister said in a recent interview. 

McAllister said the word has gotten out about the implementation of guest speakers and now he has a waiting list of groups, and individuals that want to give presentations to the Council.

“I was really proud of that, just changing the culture,” said McAllister. 

But that wasn’t the only change in the interest of making the Council meetings more public friendly. 

In September the Council appointed retired Warwick Police Officer Paul Wells to the newly created sergeant of arms position. 

The non-paid position was created according to McAllister in order for the public to have a go-to person during its meetings to pass out agendas, help the public sign up for public comment and answer questions they may have. 

McAllister has also made it an unofficial rule that at 7 p.m. the Council pauses any ongoing committee meetings to allow the meeting to open and address different items that community members are attending for including the guest speakers and public comment. 

2021 Accomplishments 

During his first term one of the biggest accomplishments for the Council that McAllister pointed to is the lease-purchasing program.

“That's something I’m very proud of,” said McAllister. 

McAllister said that one of the first meetings that he had as Council President was with Ward 3 City Councilman and Finance Committee Chairman Tim Howe, Finance Director Peder Schaefer and Mayor Frank Picozzi. 

“We said one of our priorities was we have to update our fleet,” said McAllister who said the City needed to update all of its vehicles including the police, fire, DPW and others. 

McAllister said the city didn’t have a plan from year to year on how much would be allocated towards new vehicles. 

Now they will know how much they have to spend and can purchase vehicles regularly instead of getting into an emergency situation. 

“Now we know it's in the budget that we're going to get X amount and it's already in the budget,” said McAllister. 

Other accomplishments that he pointed to were a zero percentage tax increase, and making needed repairs at McDermott Pool. 

Relationship with the Mayor, Council 

It was Nov.7 2020, just days after the election when then Mayor-Elect Picozzi met McAllister. 

McAllister was one of eight other city councilors and councilman-elects that visited Picozzi at his home that day as Picozzi got his annual Christmas display ready. 

While they didn’t know each other until that day, a couple of months later they would soon begin to talk everyday. 

McAllister said that Picozzi includes him in every decision. 

“We have a really good relationship,” said McAllister. 

But aside from his relationship with the Mayor, McAllister said that he and other Council members have been getting along thus far. 

“We don’t agree on everything but we all ultimately have the same goal which helps,” said McAllister. 

Lessons Learned 

When McAllister became Council President one of the people he spoke to was House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi. Shekarchi who was House Majority Leader was set to be sworn in as Speaker. 

A piece of advice that McAllister recalled getting from Shekarchi was to “make sure you take your time on things.”

McAllister said that he was given advice to take a breath and to flush out what is an emergency and needs to be on the agenda right away and what doesn’t. 

He feels like he has used that advice.

McAllister said that they always want to accomplish as many things as possible, but there is only so much time to get things done. With that said he thinks what needed to get passed in 2021 did. 

“I don’t see anything that has stalled out. We’ve been able to move on the things we had to get done,” said McAllister. 

Looking ahead

The Council got back to work Monday. 

Going into the New Year, McAllister said one of the Council’s top focuses needs to be on how the City should allocate the American Rescue Act Funds. 

“The big focus I think needs to be on the American Relief funds. How are we going to execute those one time funds,” said McAllister. 

Part of the funds McAllister expects will be allocated for specific ward projects. He said that he is in talks with Picozzi on a framework for how to execute that type of plan.

McAllister said that he is going to ask each member of the Council to have community conversations and get feedback from their constituents on how the money can be best spent in their Wards. 

McAllister also noted that a lot of it will be going towards infrastructure and what he described as the “non sexy issues.”

McAllister said that the City has a “great Council,” and is looking forward to what’s ahead in 2022.

“It’s going to be an exciting year,” said McAllister. 

McAllister, council


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