Running for local office has long been a goal for Robert Ferri.
It was while working on Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins’ 2016 campaign, however, that he finally decided to take the next step.
Ferri recently announced his intention to seek a citywide seat on the City Council in the November 2020 election, joining Hopkins as the second member of the three-person citywide Republican ticket. He plans to kick off his campaign with an Oct. 22 fundraising reception at the Santa Maria Di Prata Society.
“It’s kind of something I always wanted to do, but the timing was never right. I owned a business for a while and other things always got in the way,” he said. “While I was helping Kenny, I kind of made my mind up that I wanted to do it, too … I live in Cranston, I love Cranston. I think I have a lot to offer.”
Ferri, who currently serves on the city’s Board of Contracts and Purchasing, said his primary focus is on preserving the city’s financial position. He said Mayor Allan Fung – who is barred from seeking reelection due to term limits – has done a “tremendous job” during his tenure.
“I think the highest priority is to keep the city financially stable. You can’t have a strong Fire Department, a strong Police Department, great schools, good services – you can’t have any of that if you don’t have the money,” he said.
He added: “The city is really financially stable right now, as far as I can see … It’s really, really important to me that you don’t spend money you don’t have. I’ve run my household that way, I ran my business that way. I think I got it from my mother. She used to always say, ‘It’s not how much money you make. It’s how much money you spend.’”
Ferri said he intends to be a presence at council meetings in the months ahead – noting, “I don’t want to play catch-up” if elected – and said he generally favors an approach focused on consensus-building and “compromise” when it comes to issues of importance.
He noted, for example, that he supported the recent move to increase the salary of the mayor’s office because of a belief that the current figure of roughly $80,000 is too low, but was glad the council amended the initial proposal to reduce the raise and remove automatic annual increases from the equation.
“I kind of take that approach with a lot of things,” he said.
In terms of his background, Ferri grew up in Providence and graduated Classical High School before earning a bachelor’s in business from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s in teaching from Johnson & Wales University.
He owned Town Hall Lanes in Johnston for 18 years before briefly pursuing teaching as a profession – a move that did not stick, he said, due to the fact that he “didn’t fit into the system” after so many years operating his own business.
He then changed course again, serving as director of religious education at three churches – St. Brendan in Riverside, St. Elizabeth in Bristol and Immaculate Reception in Cranston – over the course of 12 years.
He retired more than three years ago at age 60, and now works part-time through a small property management company he started last year.
Ferri and his wife, Denise, reside in the city’s Meshanticut section. They have lived in Cranston since the 1980s – aside from a brief two-year period when they resided in Narragansett – and have two children and one grandchild. Both of their children graduated from Cranston High School West.
He is also the brother of Frank Ferri, a former Warwick state representative and 2014 Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.
Ferri said he would have preferred to run for the Ward 5 seat on the council in his first bid for elected office, but that incumbent Chris Paplauskas – a fellow Republican – has done a “great job.”
He also said he hopes City Council President Michael Farina follows through on a widely anticipated bid for mayor.
“I kind of hope Mike runs, and I want to be part of that ticket … I definitely would support Mike if he makes the final decision to run,” he said.
For now, Ferri said he has given up Monday night bocce – something he takes “very seriously” – to focus on the campaign and the issues facing city government. As of late last week, he said more than 100 people had responded to attend his kickoff event.
“Only one person’s told me I’m crazy … For the most part, I think I’m making the right decision,” he said with a laugh.
Ferri’s candidacy appears to give the local GOP an early edge in terms of filling its slate for the citywide contest.
Hopkins – who is in his first term on the council – announced earlier this year he would pass on a bid for mayor in 2020 and instead seek reelection to his current seat.
At the time, he said his focus would be on recruiting Republican candidates and winning the council’s presidency – a position that would open with the expected mayoral bid by Farina, who is in the midst of his fourth citywide council term.
The third citywide council seat is held by Democrat Steve Stycos, who is in his fifth term and cannot seek reelection next year due to term limits. Stycos has also said he is considering a run for mayor.
The campaign, however, remains in its earliest stages. The window to file formal declarations of candidacy does not arrive until June 2020.