By DANIEL KITTREDGE History was made Monday night as the City Council appointed Aniece Germain to the Ward 2 seat left vacant by Paul McAuley's recent resignation. "I'm looking forward to working collaboratively with you," Germain told her new council
History was made Monday night as the City Council appointed Aniece Germain to the Ward 2 seat left vacant by Paul McAuley’s recent resignation.
“I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with you,” Germain told her new council colleagues after the 6-0 vote in favor of her appointment. “I cannot say that I will be Councilman Paul McAuley, and I really thank him for his service to our ward. He will be missed. I am not him, I know that, but I will do my best to fulfill my duties in collaboration with you to make our city the best it can be.”
Germain becomes the first Black woman and the first Haitian-American to serve on the City Council. Ward 1 Councilwoman Lammis Vargas called Monday’s vote a “historic moment.”
“She’s a hard-working woman … Aniece will be an asset to the Cranston City Council, where diversity is needed now more than ever,” Vargas said.
“She’s been a champion on so many important issues … She’s a fighter, and we need more people like Aniece,” added Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan.
A Democrat, Germain had already declared her candidacy for the Ward 2 seat when McAuley – also a Democrat, who had previously announced he would not seek reelection – unexpectedly resigned in June.
The city’s charter provides for the filling of council vacancies through appointment, with requirements that the appointee be of the same party and, in the case of a ward seat, a resident of the same part of the city.
Germain subsequently expressed interest in being appointed to the seat, and Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos on Monday said she received the recommendation of the city and Ward 2 Democratic committees and the council’s Democratic caucus.
“I think she’s very qualified,” Stycos said.
Germain will seek a full term in the seat in November’s election, as will Republican hopeful Zac Sailer. On Tuesday, Sailer issued a statement congratulating Germain and praising McAuley for his service to the city.
“I’m so happy for Mrs. Germain as she embarks on a new step in her political career,” Sailer’s statement reads. “Differences aside, I hope she keeps the city of Cranston first in her mind and treats it well when it comes to her voting and decision making. I will be an ally to her in this process, because after all, Cranston is at the core of my life and I believe it is the best city in Rhode Island to live in.”
Regarding McAuley, Sailer said: “People like Paul are the reason why I decided to get into this. Yes, we’re in different parties, but watching a person like that for the last four years has truly been awe inspiring … He has done everything the right way during both of his terms and was the best person for the job over the past few years.”
Two Republican council members, Citywide Councilman Ken Hopkins and Ward 6 Councilman Michael Favicchio, abstained from Monday’s vote. While acknowledging the appointment was in keeping with the provisions of the city’s charter, both said they had concerns over the “competitive advantage” it would give Germain ahead of November’s election.
Favicchio specifically pointed to his “procedural” concern with appointing someone to a seat who is already a declared candidate, saying: “As a principle, it’s just something that I don’t believe in.”
Hopkins, meanwhile, also cited what he views as the mistreatment of McAuley by the council’s legal advisers and other members of the body.
“We should never even be at this point … If [McAuley] was treated fairly, this never would have happened in the first place,” he said.
Republican Ward 4 Councilman Ed Brady – who himself first came to the council through an appointment to fill a vacancy – also acknowledged the “competitive advantage” concern but said he would support Germain’s appointment.
“I’m for doing what’s right for the people … the people of the ward do need representation in the coming months,” he said.
Brady and the council’s Democrats, Donegan, Stycos and Vargas, were joined by Council President Michael Farina and Ward 5 Councilman Chris Paplauskas, both Republicans, in supporting Germain’s appointment.
Germain’s path to a seat on the Cranston City Council has been an unusual one.
A native of Haiti, she and her husband, Norly, came to Cranston in 2009 when they fled violence in their home country. In the years since, she has become a fixture in local nonprofit work and advocacy, co-founding the organization Hope and Change for Haiti and serving on the board of groups such as the NAACP’s Providence Branch, the RI National Organization for Women, the African Alliance of Rhode Island and the Cranston Action Network.
Germain’s first step toward public office came last year, when she was a candidate to fill the vacant Ward 2 seat on the Cranston School Committee.
After Monday’s vote, Germain immediately joined the council meeting as a full voting member. While the council continues to meet virtually due to pandemic-related restrictions, Farina said a formal swearing-in ceremony for Germain will be held in person in the near future.