By DANIEL KITTREDGE It's a job that carries a six-figure salary, a staff of a half-dozen employees and a budget of more than $1 million. It also a position that, to this point, come with limited power and little in the way of clear-cut responsibilities.
It’s a job that carries a six-figure salary, a staff of a half-dozen employees and a budget of more than $1 million.
It also a position that, to this point, come with limited power and little in the way of clear-cut responsibilities. Indeed, one of its more memorable aspirants, the late Bob Healey, sought the role with a pledge to seek its elimination.
Regardless, for nearly 80 Rhode Islanders, the office of lieutenant governor – now vacant as Gina Raimondo heads to Washington, D.C., and Dan McKee assumes the governorship – represents an attractive enough opportunity to have submitted a formal application to the new governor’s transition team.
The list, which has grown by nearly 20 names since it was initially released early last month, includes a number of Cranston officials and residents.
Some are established members of the political scene, including Maria Bucci, a former City Council member and Democratic mayoral candidate, and Ed Brady, the current Ward 4 council member and vice president of the Republican-led body.
There’s also Adam Carbone, whose unorthodox bid for mayor last year produced one of the lasting images from the campaign when he took part in a Democratic primary debate while dressed as a hot dog.
Others are, to varying degrees, less well known, although some have experience in the civic and political realms.
The McKee transition team identified a total of seven applicants who identified themselves as residents of Cranston. Their application materials were provided to the Herald upon request.
The applications from Bucci and Brady have been previously reported on, although the content of their letters to McKee offer additional insight into their respective pitches to the incoming governor.
Carbone’s letter, unsurprisingly, is the most colorful of the Cranston submissions.
“Many on the list would do a fantastic job, but I’d like to offer you something completely unique,” it reads. “I was considering a run for Lt. Governor in 2022 but I figured, since it’s available, I’d reach out now to throw my hat in the ring.”
It continues: “Now, you may be asking what makes me qualified? My answer to that is – nothing. But I guarantee, if selected Rhode Island has never seen anything like it.”
The document concludes with a reference to characters from the “Star Wars” movies, framing the potential relationship between McKee and Carbone as one of mentor and apprentice: “I will follow your guidance and do the best job I can do, I will make Rhode Island proud. You and I together will be the next Obi-wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker.”
Much of Carbone’s letter strikes a more serious, even reflective, tone. He likens himself to Healey – a perennial statewide candidate who founded the Cool Moose Party – “but for the younger generation.”
He praises McKee’s public presence during the pandemic, writing: “I remember you working tirelessly helping small businesses, meeting with city councils and doing everything you could during the pandemic to help many people who were struggling and that really stood out to me.”
Of his mayoral bid, Carbone writes: “I approached the campaign with lightheartedness, humor and energy. It was very inspiring for a lot of people, especially the younger generation. I got many people to register to vote for the first time just because of what I was doing. I had parents reach out to me with children that were looking up to me and my campaign, it got people that wouldn’t think twice about local politics interested and involved. It was very uplifting and fun for people who were sick of the same old same old and, people needed to laugh during the sadness of 2020. And I’m very proud of that.”
Brady’s letter also pitches McKee on an unorthodox choice – crossing party lines with his lieutenant governor pick.
“I offer you a unique skill set that personifies a cross-section of hands-on business management experience with the necessary political acumen and experience that can lead a team, truly connect with the people of Rhode Island, and build consensus between stakeholders through diplomacy,” Brady’s letter of interest reads.
It continues: “Politically, a key consideration is your counterpart’s ability to bring in new sources of support and resources. As a moderate Republican, I enjoy a wide spectrum of support and respect from voters and elected officials on both sides of the aisle across the State of Rhode Island. As with any small business, but particularly as a restaurateur and co-owner of Dig In Dining Group, networking is the key to success. As a result of my ability to communicate persuasively and my excellent track record of building new business, I have been forging strong relationships and developing partnerships nationwide to build a robust network from which to fundraise, including members of the entertainment and sports industries across the country.”
The letter also points to Brady’s charitable and community-based work as illustrating his “track record as a true community servant.”
“As does yours, my resume stands in start contrast to the typical Rhode Island politician,” it reads. “I pride myself on being both a leader and a community builder. While others talk the talk, like you, I walk the walk.”
It concludes: “I would be proud to serve with a Governor who puts people over politics and shares my goals and vision for a vibrant, united Rhode Island. I passionately believe that our strong partnership across party lines would be beneficial for government operations and positive for the State as a whole. Such a selection is exactly what the State, and our Country, needs at this moment in history.”
Bucci, who was recently elected the new chair of the Cranston Democratic City Committee, writes in her letter to McKee that she has “the experience and compassion to serve effectively” in the lieutenant governor’s office.
Bucci writes that her mayoral bid “gave me an enhanced appreciation for the challenges we face as a community and a state, and it energized my will to continue with public service.”
She also cites “two immediate priorities” – an “equitable and efficient rollout of vaccines,” and taking steps to “rebuild our workforce and encourage businesses of all sizes to grow and invest in Rhode Island.”
“Our economy cannot recover … until vaccines are widely administered and the threat of serious illness is mitigated,” she writes. “I believe the full force of state government, headed by the Governor and a trusted teammate as Lieutenant Governor, is the key to Rhode Island’s rebirth. You can count on me to be that trusted partner in moving the state forward.”
The letter continues: “I want to build on your record of accountability, fiscal responsibility, concern for environmental issues, and having an administration that is reflective of Rhode Island’s demographics. Equity, inclusion, and respect for all are key elements that make up who I am … Your ascension to the Governor’s office gives me great hope because you understand the importance of our cities and towns and how they contribute to the fabric of what makes our state so great. If selected to be your partner in state government moving forward, you will see my unwavering commitment to your vision and agenda for the state.”
The materials provided by the McKee transition for the other four Cranston applicants include only résumés.
One comes from Michelle David, who spent nearly 20 years as an educator in West Warwick’s school system before serving as an administrator with Cranston Public Schools from 2006 to 2019. Her most recent experience includes serving as a travel adviser for Cruise Brothers and as state operation director for Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign. The resume also highlights her involvement with Special Olympics of Rhode Island and the Cranston Education Foundation.
Michael DeRobbio’s submission touts his experience as an “accomplished executive assistant with experience providing high-level support to top executives” and a “consummate professional dedicated to making the lives of business executives easier.”
His listed experience includes serving as an accounting manager for West Warwick-based Wilkem Scientific and an executive assistant at both Warwick’s Barnum Financial Group and Bryant University in Smithfield.
Donald R. Gendron’s application lists more than three decades of experience in the U.S. Army as a readiness management non-commissioned officer, starting in 1967, and two decades as a business owner “with extensive experience in the coordination, planning, and support of operational and administrative functions.” Gendron ran for state representative in District 18 in 2012 and 2014 as a Republican.
Judith A. Abate’s resume describes her as a “dynamic, results driven manufacturing professional” with more than two decades of experience and “demonstrated success driving quality processes in a multimillion-dollar sales and revenue growth operation.”
The submission lists her experiences as a quality control manager in the jewelry industry, including time at K&M Associations LP in Providence, Jewelry Concepts Inc. in Warwick and Tanya Creations Inc. in East Providence.
It is unclear when McKee will make a selection for the lieutenant governor’s office.
Initially, his transition team accepted applications through an online portal that closed in early February. It then announced it would accept submissions that arrived after that portal’s deadline, however, with Brady, Carbone, Abate and Gendron among those who have thrown their hats into the ring in the weeks since.