The Warwick City Council officially welcomed its two new members Tuesday night during the city’s inauguration ceremony, in addition to electing its leadership and committee chairs and members.
Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla – the most tenured member of the council with nearly 20 years’ experience – was unanimously elected as the Council President after being nominated by Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who was in turn nominated and unanimously approved as President pro tempore.
Merolla will resume the role of council president after being elevated to the post when Joseph Solomon became mayor following the departure of Scott Avedisian. Ladouceur said during his nomination that nobody could be more qualified for the role than Merolla, who has demonstrated a history of working collaboratively and for all constituents both inside and outside of his ward.
“I think that we're in good hands and we're also in good hands with our councilmembers,” Merolla said of Mayor Solomon and his colleagues. “I'm very optimistic that we can face the challenges of tomorrow while reflecting on the past.”
Merolla took a moment to reflect on that past personally which, in terms of his experience in Warwick, began 50 years ago in 1968 when his family first moved to Warwick on Love Lane in Cowesett. It was a time before Route 2 and large shopping malls and even a time before congested traffic was common.
“We would see horses travel back and forth in front of our house,” Merolla said, adding that I-95 had just been constructed, as had the three schools – Cedar Hill Elementary, Winman Junior High School and Toll Gate High School – that Merolla would attend. “It was a booming time in Warwick when we moved here.”
Merolla said the council’s focus must be on navigating rapidly changing times and working towards a better tomorrow.
“I can remember how Warwick has changed since I've been here, and I can only imagine what it will look like 50 years from now,” he said. “Those are the challenges that face this mayor and this council, to be able to adapt to changing times… and they're tough challenges, because as times change, so does government. Government needs to change.”
At the committee level, the powerful finance committee retained its same configuration, with Ladouceur as the chair and Ward 3 Councilman Timothy Howe and Ward 7 Councilman Stephen McAllister as the other two members. The local law-oriented ordinance committee will seat McAllister as its chair with Ward 1 Councilman Richard Corley and newly-elected Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi as fellow members.
Howe will chair the Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) Committee alongside Ladouceur and McAllister, Sinapi will chair the Public Safety Committee alongside Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix and Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis. Corley will continue to chair the Intergovernmental Committee alongside Howe and newly-elected Ward 4 Councilman (Solomon’s former seat) James McElroy who will also, in his first term, chair the Appointments Committee alongside Rix and McAllister. Rix will chair the Public Properties, Land Use and Community Affairs Committee alongside Corley and McElroy.
New to the council this year will be the Economic Development committee, scheduled to take place last before the general business meetings begin. This will be chaired by Travis, with Sinapi and Rix occupying the other seats.
Also sworn in during the inauguration were the three new members of the Warwick School Committee – Kyle Adams in District 1; Judith Cobden in District 2; and Nathan Cornell in District 3.