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PowerPlayer: City Council Chief of Staff Jake Bissaillon

Monday, September 26, 2011

 

Providence City Council Chief of Staff Jake Bissaillon talks to us about getting involved in politics, working in City Hall and his strange competitive streak in GoLocalProv’s weekly PowerPlayer interview.

1) You ran Steven Costantino's campaign for Mayor of Providence and ended up working in City Hall with many of the same people that defeated you last September. What's that like? Did it take a little while to get used to working closely with the Taveras administration?

I see working with the Taveras administration as a tremendous opportunity. I had a great deal of respect for the Mayor and his campaign last year so really I just hope to earn their respect the way they earned mine. I work very closely with the Administration everyday and it has been a demanding and fulfilling experience. Providence faces many challenges, but fortunately the Administration and Council didn’t hesitate to address these challenges together. Much work remains, but I think our progress is a result of the Mayor, City Council, and respective staffers working closely together and putting petty differences aside.

2) You've got an MBA from Providence College. What made you want to get involved in city politics?

I always wanted to work in government and studied Political Science as an undergrad before getting my MBA in non-profit and government management. I enjoyed Providence while I was in school, but it was not until last summer’s campaign that I really developed an appreciation for this City and learned about the many challenges it currently faces. When I went to RIPEC I had an education rooted in empirical analysis and finance that allowed me to appreciate the woes facing Rhode Island’s cities and towns. In the end, taking an opportunity that enabled me to play a small part in helping Providence overcome its own financial difficulties was a no brainer.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

Every day is different, but it usually begins with morning conversations with the President, Majority Leader and any Council members who have lingering issues from the day before. After that I work with my staff on any constituent requests they may need my support on. I’ll usually grab a quick bite downtown for lunch before heading into afternoon meetings with various departments and Council members. I spend the late afternoon in meetings with the President before proceeding to whichever Committee has a hearing that night. Hopefully the Committee proceedings are wrapped around 7 and then it’s off to watch the Red Sox with anyone who’s left in City Hall.

4) You get to hear a lot from constituents. What's the strangest request you've had so far?

I wouldn’t call any constituent request strange, but I have a new found appreciation for the level of attention people pay to their surroundings. Whether it’s replacing a worn down swing in a city park or filling in a sidewalk’s grass strip, such requests serve as a constant reminder that people care about this City and deserve top-notch service. If there’s one disappointing thing about my job it is that there are some issues - probably the more stranger ones – that we can’t resolve.

5) The City Council and the Administration seem to have a pretty strong relationship right now. What has changed between now and say, a year ago?

I can’t speak for what is was like a year ago, but I think one of the main reasons for the current state of affairs is that both branches are committed to outcomes. Overall, we recognize that the unprecedented challenges facing Providence demand immediate attention. Government has a tendency to work incrementally, but the Administration and Council have made enormous progress in their first 8 months. This requires a significant level of communication between the branches and while we don’t always agree the discussions are open, direct and meaningful.

6) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I’m very competitive at otherwise laid back activities, particularly pickup football with my cousins and Scrabble with my siblings.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: I’ve had a lot of influential people in my life, but my parents are the most.
Favorite Restaurant: McDonald's
Best Beach: Narragansett
Best Book You've Read This Year: I reread “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald every summer. It’s by far the best book I’ve ever read.
Advice For The Next Jake Bissaillon: Work hard, stay focused on your dreams, and listen to your parents and teachers.
 

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