By JOHN HOWELL Kerry Nardolillo loved getting mail. "I just loved getting mail. I was a mail person," she said from her new office in Warwick City Hall. How she got from opening mail to the city's director of elections is a story that starts in 2018.
Kerry Nardolillo loved getting mail.
“I just loved getting mail. I was a mail person,” she said from her new office in Warwick City Hall.
How she got from opening mail to the city’s director of elections is a story that starts in 2018. Basically a stay-at-home mom at the time, with the exception of a few odd jobs, she decided she wanted full-time employment. She went to the state’s job site and was instantly intrigued by an opportunity with the Division of Taxation. It wasn’t exactly a full-time job. It was seasonal and it involved opening tax returns.
She found something that appealed to her passion for mail.
“Mail is up my alley,” she said.
Nardolillo was assigned to one of nine teams opening and sorting thousands of tax returns. When the tax season came to a close, she transitioned to the state Board of Elections. Her attention to detail and the flow of data made her a good fit with the filing of campaign finances. She read up on the laws regulating campaign finances, candidate filings and the timing that goes into primaries and elections. The work put her in contact with Dottie McCarthy, who retired as the city’s director of elections this spring. It also gave her the opportunity to put her skills as a baker and event planner to work, a trait her coworkers appreciated.
But the job came to an end in October 2019 with state staff reductions.
“I went home,” she said. Home is Warwick, where she and her family live today, where she attended St. Kevin School and graduated from Veterans Memorial High School. Her maiden name is Bock. She and her husband, Joseph, are the parents of two daughters and four grandsons who live in Florida. She wasn’t out of a job for very long. In the fall of 2019 she was named the clerk by the West Warwick Board of Canvassers.
If ever there was a period of uncertainty in the managing of elections, this was it. When COVID-19 landed in this country in March of 2020 and the state went on shutdown, the state was faced with how to ensure the integrity of the electoral process while minimizing the exposure of the electorate and those running elections to the virus. The emphasis was on mail ballots and emergency voting, which actually became the form of early voting.
A staff of one in West Warwick, Nardolillo buckled down. One of her greatest challenges, which she imagines will also be the case in Warwick, was finding enough poll workers. Then there was the matter of verifying mail ballot requests. She depended heavily on the state CVRS, or Central Voter Registration System. West Warwick has 21,000 registered voters and 10 polling locations. Warwick is three times that size with 61,000 registered voters and 33 polling locations.
“I pulled off seven elections during the pandemic,” she said.
Nardolillo knew of McCarthy’s retirement.
The administration went through two rounds of seeking McCarthy’s replacement. The post was advertised before McCarthy retired and after the narrowing down of candidates and interviews, the job was offered to one of the candidates. When that person refused the job on the basis of pay, the job was posted a second time.
None of the original candidates reapplied for the job. Nardolillo was one of two candidates found qualified for the job by a committee and recommended to Mayor Picozzi. Picozzi recommended Nardolillo to the Board of Canvassers, which made the final selection.
Now that she has moved in, the office – with its large oak table, shelves packed with dated binders of polling data and sun streaming in from its westward window – looks no different than when occupied for years by the late Joseph Gallucci, his successor Donna McDonald or Dottie McCarthy. Nardolillo is thinking of the upcoming election cycle, which has already started to rev up with the declaration of multiple candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor. On a local level, that’s not anticipated to heat up until after the first of the year.
The Board of Canvassers won’t be actively engaged in the process until the declaration deadline in June, when candidates get their nomination papers and collect the required signatures from registered voters to qualify. Nardolillo has been through the drill and expects Warwick to be no different than West Warwick, where a number of possible candidates stake out the office waiting to see who is going to take out papers. As she did in West Warwick, she’ll be eying the clock, as those declaring their candidacy have to have their papers time-stamped prior to the 4 p.m. cutoff on declaration day.
Long before the parade of candidates, the Warwick board, like other municipal boards, will be faced with statewide redistricting in compliance with the 2020 Census. That job will require voter notification of state districts as well as wards.
Nardolillo isn’t put off by the magnitude of the job. She notes that with Donna Collins and Michael Rooney Jr. on her staff, she has a couple of tried and true veterans, and with a board headed by long-time chairman Ed Murphy and Dottie McCarthy a phone call away, she is confident.
“If I can handle all those [West Warwick elections] in a pandemic, this should be easy,” she said.
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