By DANIEL KITTREDGE Just days before the official candidacy declaration period arrives, two more hopefuls for citywide seats on the City Council have announced their plans to run. Nicole Renzulli announced on Facebook last week that she would run as a
Just days before the official candidacy declaration period arrives, two more hopefuls for citywide seats on the City Council have announced their plans to run.
Nicole Renzulli announced on Facebook last week that she would run as a Republican for one of the seats. Then, on Monday, Democrat Dylan Zelazo said he, too, will be a candidate.
Renzulli, highlighting this year’s 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, wrote in her announcement: “I can think of no better time than the centennial anniversary of one of the greatest victories in the history of America, led by women and for women, to announce that I am entering into a new kind of race … For all the women that fought to give me the right to vote and to give me a seat at the table, I am now picking up that torch and will carry it into the next generation so that my daughters will not only have a seat at the table, but so they can run it.”
Zelazo, in his announcement, said: “It’s time to step up and get directly involved in making our future better for everyone in Cranston. There’s so much going on in the world right now, and I believe it is my duty to help. I want to give back to this community that has welcomed my family and me by putting my background in local government to work for the benefit of Cranston. If the voters of Cranston put their faith in me, I will always represent them with integrity, competence, and a passion for improving our community.”
The council figures to look very different when the new term begins in January, and the citywide race will play a pivotal role in determining which party controls the body.
All three of the current citywide council members – Council President Michael Farina and councilmen Ken Hopkins and Steve Stycos – have announced their candidacy for mayor. Farina and Hopkins, who will face off in a Republican primary, are choosing not to seek new council terms, while Stycos, who is vying with Maria Bucci for the Democratic mayoral nod, is unable to seek reelection to his current post due to term limits.
Republican Ward 6 Councilman Michael Favicchio is also term limited, while Democratic Ward 2 Councilman Paul McAuley has decided not to seek reelection after two terms. In all, five of the council’s nine seats – currently held by three Republicans and two Democrats – appear certain to have new occupants in 2021.
Renzulli joins an announced Republican citywide field that already includes Robert Ferri. Zelazo becomes the third Democrat to announce a citywide campaign, joining Paul Archetto and Larry Warner.
The candidacy declaration period arrives from June 22-24, followed by the window during which candidates must collect the required number of voter signatures to appear on the ballot.
Zelazo promises ‘new voice,’ cites experience
Zelazo, 33, currently works as director of administration for the city of Pawtucket. In that role, according to his statement, he “helps lead the budgeting process, collective bargaining negotiations, and day-to-day governmental operations.” He additionally plays a role in the city’s economic development efforts.
“A New Voice for Cranston, Zelazo brings a wealth of municipal government experience to the table,” the statement reads. “The campaign will focus on bringing a new generation of leadership to the city, while prioritizing the future of the City’s public education system, fiscal health, public infrastructure investment, and economic development.”
Zelazo and his wife, Amanda, have two sons, 5-year-old Jack and 3-year-old Ari. He holds a master’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Providence College.
Zelazo’s announcement includes words of support from several Cranston civic leaders.
“Dylan Zelazo’s work experience and educational background make him a highly qualified candidate for Cranston City Council,” former Mayor John O’Leary said in the statement. “I’ve known Dylan and his family for a long time, and I know him to be a person of integrity who really cares about making a difference. He has my full support, and he will be a great new voice for Cranston.”
State Rep. Robert Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) said Zelazo is “committed to making Cranston’s future even brighter and he has the knowledge and experience to be an excellent City Councilor.” Paula McFarland, former vice president of the City Council, said Zelazo has a “rare combination of municipal government experience, budgetary expertise, solution-drive management skills, and a true passion for making a difference in people’s lives.”
Zelazo added in the statement: “I know we can work together to unify Cranston around a singular vision for the future in which our community benefits from the best public schools in the state, high-quality modern infrastructure, and intelligently-planned economic development that enhances our city and benefits our neighborhoods by helping keep our taxes lower. We all want to imagine a Cranston for our kids that is even better than the one we’ve been fortunate enough to call home, and I truly believe that, together, we can make that vision a reality.”
Renzulli points to ‘unique experience and viewpoint’
Renzulli, who turns 36 this month, is the track and field and cross country coach at Western Hills Middle School and Cranston High School West – a role through which she said she has “found her calling.”
A graduate of Cranston West, Renzulli earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Florida State University before beginning her career as a local news station producer in Tallahassee. She returned to Rhode Island to work in the state’s Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, first as an administrative officer and later as a principal planning and program specialist. She said Kathleen Hittner, the state’s former health insurance commissioner, was “an incredible mentor to me.”
Renzulli and her husband, fellow Cranston native Joseph Martins, have three children, 11-year-old Anthony and 4-year-old twins Francesca and Jovanna. She has been active as a coach and volunteer with numerous organizations, including CLCF, the Woodridge Elementary School PTO and the Cranston West Alumni Association.
During a phone interview Monday, Renzulli said she was recruited to run for the citywide seat. She noted that the council currently includes just one woman – Ward 1 Councilwoman Lammis Vargas – and that she hopes to bring a new perspective to the city’s governing body.
“I think it’s important that women have a seat at the table, too,” she said.
Renzulli called education a “huge priority of mine,” and she also spoke highly of Mayor Allan Fung’s record of fiscal management. She said fostering growth in the city’s small business community as a means of offsetting the residential tax burden will be a priority of hers if elected.
“I want to continue to be fiscally responsible,” she said.
In her Facebook post, Renzulli added: “I love my City. I love working with the children of this City each and every day and I am ready to be a servant leader at an even higher level. Committed to being a new voice for Cranston’s citizens, I will work tirelessly to make sure the progress this City has made over the last decade isn’t wasted and that we continue to move in the right direction for each and every citizen of Cranston.”
Renzulli said she has a “good working relationship” with both Hopkins and Farina and is not currently backing a mayoral candidate.
She also said she hopes to serve as a voice for members of the community who are unable to be actively involved in local government.
“I’m not a politician … My only agenda is to make Cranston a great place to live,” she said, adding: “I don’t know that people really know exactly what’s going on [at City Hall], because they’re so busy living their lives … What is going to get those voices heard if they can’t necessarily go to City Council meetings?”
Ward 4 Councilman Edward Brady, in his own Facebook page, offered support for Renzulli’s candidacy. He called her a “lifelong friend” who would “make a great addition to the Cranston City Council.”
“Nicole has always led with her heart and has been a great community activist throughout her entire life here in Cranston!” Brady wrote. “She continues to make a positive difference in our community as a mother, coach, and hard working woman! She will listen, continue to learn, be responsive, and fight for what she is passionate about!”