By JOHN HOWELL In less than a week since Warwick voters gave him a mandate to guide the city for the upcoming two years, Mayor-elect Frank Picozzi has named a transition team, met with a majority of the City Council and added definition to his goal to
In less than a week since Warwick voters gave him a mandate to guide the city for the upcoming two years, Mayor-elect Frank Picozzi has named a transition team, met with a majority of the City Council and added definition to his goal to make Warwick government more transparent and engage citizens in the process.
That’s not all. Picozzi continues to run his business as an independent contractor, personally vinyl siding homes and doing window replacements and, of course, working on his digital Christmas display that attracts thousands of viewers starting with Black Friday.
Picozzi is also discovering what it’s like to have his every move scrutinized.
Within hours of announcing his transition team on Facebook, the Beacon received a complaint that it is made up entirely of white men and does not include a woman or person of color.
Picozzi had an answer. The team that is being chaired by former chief of staff for former Mayor Scott Avedisian, Mark Carruolo, and its members have all served in city government or held elective positions. He explained he picked people on the basis of their knowledge and experience with city government.
“I’m asking those who have the knowledge,” he said.
Also named to the transition team are former city solicitor Peter Ruggiero, former Warwick finance director Ernest Zmyslinski, School Committee member David Testa, former chair of the School Committee Charles Benson and his brother David Picozzi, former Department of Public Works director and chief of staff for Mayor Avedisian.
Throughout his campaign Picozzi stressed he is an independent and if elected would do away with political payoffs and nepotism. In announcing the transition team, he said none of the members are being paid. He reiterated he does not intend to hire his brother as part of his administration and is turning to him now because of his intimate knowledge of city operations.
Picozzi identified the selection of a solicitor as his top priority, adding that the team has selected four candidates for interviews. Picozzi said he will be looking to the solicitor for guidance on contracts and legal issues he will face upon taking office. He acknowledged the short-term challenge of making a selection now and calling on that candidate for advice when his [Picozzi’s] term doesn’t start until January and he can’t pay someone until then. Picozzi said he would be reviewing all non-classified positions, jobs including department directors that were filled by Mayor Joseph Solomon or Mayor Avedisian.
In a statement released by office Tuesday, Mayor Solomon said he received a letter from Picozzi informing him of the transition team.
“Throughout my tenure as an elected official, I have always put the needs of the City foremost in any decisions I have made, and I will continue to do so for the remainder of my term,” Solomon said.
The statement goes on to read, “During these uncertain times as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is more important than ever to ensure that our communities have stability and that our residents and our business community are reassured that services will continue to operate seamlessly, effectively, and efficiently through this transitional period. To that end, I am committed to doing whatever is necessary to assist the incoming administration so that we both can ensure the ongoing vitality and success of our great City.”
So as not to miss his self-imposed deadline to premiere the 2020 edition of his Christmas light show, Picozzi said council members dropped by his home over the weekend to chat as he worked. Who should succeed Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla as City Council president was on the minds of more than one of his visitors. Names that have been mentioned include Ed Ladouceur, Ward 5; Anthony Sinapi, Ward 8 and Steve McAllister, Ward 7. Ladouceur broke ranks with his Democratic colleagues and endorsed Picozzi three weeks prior to the election. One would imagine he’d be Picozzi’s favorite.
“I want nothing to do with the president’s race,” Picozzi asserted.
Picozzi’s win in a heavily Democratic city, during a pandemic and with his use of social media to campaign – the story of the underdog – caught the attention of the news media. Picozzi said he was pleased to do a two-hour interview with Mark Patinkin of the Providence Journal as he enjoys Patinkin’s writing and considers him a good reporter. Patinkin’s story appeared in Saturday’s paper. But that is it. He said he didn’t return a call from the New York Times because he’s not seeking publicity and had he granted an interview it most probably would have resulted in other media inquiries. Besides, he adds, the media attention sends the wrong message.
“It makes you look like you have a big ego,” he said.
On the other hand, Picozzi isn’t hesitant about spreading some good vibes.
Picozzi said he fully endorses early Christmas displays like that of Willow Glen condos on Oakland Beach Avenue.
“Warwick is going Christmas right now,” he said. “It cheers us up from COVID.”
Picozzi said he’s received scores of congratulatory messages on Facebook that he hopes to answer as well as cards and a personal visit from Jack Welch, who was principal of John Greene School when he was a fourth-grader. And then there is the tale of his signs. A friend who worked on his campaign took it upon himself to pickup signs from across the city. While he was doing that, a sign fell from the back of the truck. The friend stopped to pick it up. A woman motorist who witnessed the incident stopped, too. She apparently accused the friend of attempting to steal the signs despite his assertion he was bringing them to Picozzi headquarters. A cop arrived on the scene and then followed the truck to Picozzi headquarters.
Picozzi said he’d be keeping his headquarters for a while longer.
While Merolla offered his office at the Buttonwoods Annex as space for the transition team, Picozzi said that wouldn’t prove practical since the team meets at night. Until he’s on the city payroll, Picozzi said he’s doing his contractor jobs so he can pay his bills.