2016-10-27 / Election News

Middletown Town Council Candidates

To assist Middletown voters in preparing for the upcoming election on Nov. 8, we have provided a short profile of each candidate based on a two-question survey. For the first time this year, the Middletown ballot is nonpartisan, after voters approved Question 9 in 2014.

There are nine candidates running for seven open seats on the Town Council, with six candidates seeking re-election. One incumbent, Vice Chair Robert Kempenaar, is not seeking another term.

In the School Committee race, three candidates are running for two open seats. Former councilor Richard Adams is the challenger, along with incumbents William O’Connell and Kellie Di- Palma Simeone.

#1) If elected, how will you make Middletown a better town for its residents?

#2) Over the last several years, several businesses have closed and/or left Middletown. How do you propose the town attract new businesses?

Olin Gambrell Sr.

62, married with seven children
Resident of Middletown 19 years,
on Aquidneck Island 51 years
Owner and President of Gambrell’s
Glass Co. since 1976.
Public offices: Middletown Zoning
Board of Review, 2011-2016

#1) I would make Middletown better for our residents by working on financial responsibility, trying to keep taxes down. Everything is tax driven, so I would work on that to make Middletown more affordable.

#2) I would work with businesses here to see what can be done to help them stay and grow here. By doing that, you would also be attracting new businesses, because you will become a business-friendly town.

Henry Lombardi Jr.

62, married with two children
Resident of Middletown 47 years
Director of Campus Safety at
St. George’s School, retired
20-year Newport Police Officer
Public offices: Middletown Town
Council, 2014-2016

#1) There are several areas that we should concentrate on in the coming years. First is smart, controlled economic development. The town is looking at a mixed use ordinance that should help address this area. We enacted an ordinance that effectively will discourage big box retail. I'm convinced that the days of big box retail are gone with the advent of being able to make large purchases via the Internet. We should be concentrating our development more toward high tech good-paying industries that will bring stability to our town's commercial tax base. If we can achieve this, that will help to lessen the burden on homeowners, specifically our seniors and our young families just starting out.

#2) The commercial business have left town for a variety of reasons. One is the growing trend toward making retail purchases over the Internet. This is a growing trend, particularly with the younger generation. There has been growing discussion regarding a tax plan that would give simplicity and predictability to our town's homeowners. I'm convinced that the way to achieve that is to attract good high tech businesses to our town, as well as expand and attract more businesses connected to our already strong defense-based industry. The secretary of defense in a recent visit said our area is "the Silicon Valley of the defense industry." These types of businesses bring in good high-paying jobs with families who settle here, buy and rent homes here, and patronize our local businesses. I think we should look at providing tax stabilization incentives to bring this type of industry to Middletown. Tax incentives to attract good sound economic development has been successful in other states; if businesses know they have tax predictability, they will come and expand here and create new jobs. If we can achieve this, it would help shift the burden from the homeowner, the senior citizen who is struggling, and the young families trying to make ends meet.

Paul Rodrigues

51, single with one child
Resident of Middletown 51 years
Property Manager at VanBeuren
Public offices: Middletown Town
Council, 1998-2000, 2002-2008,
2012-2016; Town Council
President, 2004-2008

#1) I will make Middletown a better town for its residents by controlled fiscal management. I will only approve budgets that are sustainable for our residents, and always consider the taxpayers' ability to pay for those budgets. Expenses and unnecessary spending need to be reduced, and new sources of revenue need to be created to help offset the residential tax burden. I will provide strong fiscal management to create a balance of affordability while maintaining quality services and an enjoyable quality of life.

I would also develop a long-term financial road infrastructure plan to ensure that our roads get paved and maintained consistently. We cannot continue to borrow against our future for infrastructure improvements. I am in favor of a pay-as-you-go system.

I want to ensure that every Middletown child is provided with the best possible education. I will reestablish a positive working relationship with open communication with our School Committee.

#2) Small businesses are the backbone of every successful, stable economic community. Working with the Economic Development Committee and the town staff, I would develop a long-term tax incentive plan that would be attractive to businesses that are compatible with Middletown. This would create jobs, reduce the residential tax burden, and increase commercial tax revenues.

I would also like to see business improvement districts created to help market those businesses which would help retain existing and new businesses.

Robert Sylvia

65, married with two children
Resident of Middletown 50 years
Retired 22-year Captain of
Middletown Police Department,
president of Hudson Rock LLC
Public offices: Middletown Town
Council, 2006-2010 and 2012-2016

#1) I want to remain focused on Middletown’s future and continual successes by ensuring that we stay committed to a sound long-term financial plan that includes continued analysis of local economic and social conditions, in line with the defined goals and desires that are identified in our community-authored comprehensive plan.

Shortly we will be undertaking one of the most important projects that Middletown has seen in years: the development of the so-called West Main Road corridor project. This project, if developed properly, has the potential to take surplus naval property and town-owned property and create a revenue source that will offer relief and assist Middletown taxpayers and their children for many years to come. This must be done professionally with a detailed, open, transparent business plan that has been developed with full community involvement and participation.

#2) Middletown offers not only a unique and beautiful vista. Residents also enjoy a quality of life second to none that is cherished by every resident and easily recognized by visitors to our community. After experiencing a rapid reduction in our population after the Navy exited, we met the economic challenges by developing an aggressive economic plan that maximized Middletown’s strengths and minimized its weaknesses. Employers want to relocate to areas that are financially solvent, that have great school systems and that offer a high quality of life at an affordable cost. We believe that Middletown offers a total community value that is seldom found.

We have also established a mixed, residential, open space and business comprehensive plan through direct citizen participation that has created a long-term vision and plan that will maintain our quality of life and entice new business to our town.

M. Theresa Santos

79, widowed with two children
Resident of Middletown 79 years
Town of Middletown employee for
28 years and office administrator at
St. George's Church for 14 years
Public offices: Middletown Town
Council, 2000-2010 and 2012-

#1) We live in a great town. But we have to realize our population is getting older. The present council voted to increase the exemptions for our seniors. One thing missing is affordable senior housing. Many of them are living on Social Security and a small pension. It takes money to maintain a home, and it gets harder each year.

#2) We have to keep our present businesses in town, and bring in new ones. One way of doing all this is to have the council hold a meeting with our Economic Development Committee and local businesses at least twice a year and listen to what they have to say, the good and the bad. We must keep all parties working together in order to grow.

Dennis Turano

53, married with two children
Resident of Middletown 45 years
Partner/ Owner of Maximum Computer Solutions, Inc.

#1) I will work to lower taxes and give long-term predictability to the taxpayers of Middletown. I will implement policies to protect our senior citizens and young families with limited incomes. I want to bring my 30-plus years of worldwide business experience to the town of Middletown. I want to give back to the residents of Middletown and treat them like they are the customers. We are here to serve them within our means.

#2) I believe that by lowering taxes for businesses in Middletown we will attract companies, thereby creating jobs to continue to allow people to move to/live in Middletown. If we don’t fix our tax burden we will continue to lose jobs and businesses. We need professional, high tech jobs that enable our children to remain in Rhode Island and raise a family here. We need to invest in business so we can leverage our investments and lower residential taxes.

Barbara VonVillas

76, with four children
Resident of Middletown 65 years
Educator for 35 years, adjunct
professor at Roger Williams
University 2006-2016
Public offices: Middletown School
Committee 1990-1996, Middletown Town Council, 2008-2016

#1) Change is hard, but it is a fact of life. Middletown has a natural setting, but it also has a window on the world because of its military presence. It would be short-sighted to focus only on maintaining the status quo.

That is the reason that the town has developed a catalog of plans to address issues. Documents with broad implications include the Comprehensive Community Plan, the West Main/ Coddington Development Master Plan, and the Atlantic Beach District Master Plan, while more specific issues are addressed in such documents as the Hazard Mitigation Plan, the Stormwater Management Plan, and a Pavement Preservation Program that provides a schedule of road maintenance and replacement.

Middletown has been fortunate in having leadership with “big picture” vision and the will to implement it while, at the same time, respecting the desire to maintain a certain quality of life. These are the goals I will continue to support if I am fortunate enough to be reelected.

#2) At the Council’s Middletown Economic Development Committee, we discuss issues that will bring new businesses to the town such as providing accessible broadband, offering tax incentives, and developing a resident workforce to provide businesses with a pool of employees, all of which would make the area more attractive to commercial investment.

We have partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission to view business development from an island perspective. Our approach has been comprehensive in that we also recognize the importance of promoting a positive environment for our current commercial establishments through such innovations as the development of a business improvement district.

It is important to understand that nothing good happens in isolation. A vibrant community is dependent on meeting the needs of all its citizens.

Daniel Titus

49, married
Resident of Middletown 9 years, ,
lifelong island resident
Associate Director of Information
Technologies at Salve Regina University

#1) If elected to the Town Council, I will work diligently to keep Middletown the picturesque, family centric town it is, with its mix of businesses and neighborhoods, by revisiting zoning, open space, and other quality of life issues that face us. In addition, I believe a major concern for all Middletown residents and businesses is escalating costs (and taxes). I will work to keep these costs and taxes down so working families with children can continue to make Middletown thrive.

#2) I believe the biggest issue facing all businesses, along with those in Middletown, is rising costs. As a member of the Town Council I will work to keep these costs down. Government should work with business to help them grow, especially locally-owned and operated small- and medium-sized businesses.

Antone C. Viveiros

73, married with two children
Resident of Middletown 21 years
Retired from National Grid
Public offices: Middletown Town
Council, 2010-2012; 2014-2016

#1) I will continue to govern in the future as in the past, by doing my research, and making my decisions in the best interest of all the people of Middletown and the town as a whole, to protect their quality of life.

#2) As I have said in the past, the biggest obstacle the town faces is the state, with its high taxes and overburdening regulations, that are strangling businesses. We must get a handle on spending; we are becoming overextended. We are once again lease purchasing equipment.

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