PowerPlayer: Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena

Monday, May 14, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena. Mayor Polisena was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about his support for the Governor’s municipal relief package and his future in politics.

1) You have gone all-in with your support for Governor Chafee's municipal relief package even though your city isn't necessarily in the same predicament as Woonsocket or Providence. Why was it important for you to support the package?

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As I have said in the past, it does Johnston no good if Providence, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, West Warwick and East Providence fall into receivership. We need to ensure that all of our cities and towns stay financially strong. At this point, the Town of Johnston is fiscally sound; however, our fire and police pensions are in poor shape. I feel all of the cities and towns can benefit from the Governor’s Municipal Legislation package. This would give us the tools that all of the mayors/town administrators, town managers and town councils need in order to maintain fiscal integrity. The Governor’s Municipal Legislative package may not solve all of our problems, but at least there are options, especially with the pension legislation, which would eventually help all Rhode Island communities.

2) You served in the State Senate and now you're Mayor of Johnston. Tell us about the key differences.

Serving in the State Senate as a Deputy Majority Leader and Vice-Chairman on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as a member of former H.E.W. Committee, was a great experience for me. As a member of the Senate leadership team, it gave me the opportunity to take charge and take responsibility of several bills that I was able to get signed into law and educate me about running government. When I first was first elected, I was one of 50 senators and then with downsizing, I was one of 38 senators where we made decisions as a team with the leadership team. As Mayor, I make all of the final decisions – some popular and some not-so-popular. I have to make my decisions based on what’s best for the majority, and as Mayor I see constituents on a daily basis. They are counting on me to make the right decision each and every time.

I also feel that as Mayor, I am much closer to any and all town issues since I have an open-door policy. If a constituent comes to Town Hall and wishes to meet with me and I am not already in a meeting, I always sit down with that person and discuss their issues or concerns. If I am at a meeting, an appointment is set up for the constituent at a time when I am available to meet and give them my undivided attention. Being Mayor is much more hands-on with running government and meeting with residents one-on-one, which I really do enjoy very much. As a State Senator, people rarely called upon me to help them with their issues and concerns about the town, but as Mayor I get to do a lot of good for not only for the adult population, but also for the children and teens I meet. I did certainly enjoy being a Rhode Island State Senator, but being the Mayor of Johnston is very, very special. I think I have the best job in Rhode Island!

3) Takes us through a day in your life.

My day begins at 3:50 a.m. every morning – Monday through Sunday – to start my day. I work out on my exercise machine everyday faithfully for 45 minutes. Until recently, I would then take my dog for a walk until he passed away on January 22, 2012 (one of the worse days of my life). So now I just putter around the house, working on my computer until around 6:00 a.m. Then I shower and by 7:00 a.m., I am out of the house to the same donut shop and get an OJ and a muffin. Once in a while, I’ll order Rhode Island’s famous drink, “coffee milk”. I usually arrive at Johnston Town Hall at around 8:00 a.m. and begin my day by checking my calendar, signing documents and letters, as well as reading paperwork. I return any phone calls I may have missed from the day before and I am pretty much off-and-running for the entire day until about 5:00 p.m. If I do not have any meetings and it is nice weather and still light outside, I live on a lake in town so I like to enjoy my boat and do some fishing. This is rare for me however; because after work I usually have functions and meetings to attend and prepare for.

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4) You've amassed a pretty impressive campaign war chest. Are you considering running for higher office?

I do have a large amount of money in my campaign fund. During the last election, the Johnston Fire Union found a hand-picked person to run against me in the Mayoral race. Their hand-picked person spent $90,000.00 to try and take over the town. As I have said in public, as long as I am the Mayor, the Johnston Fire Union will not get the keys to Town Hall, so raising campaign funds is a necessary part of being Mayor. I do LOVE being the Mayor and would like to remain serving as Mayor as long as the citizens of Johnston want me to be their Mayor. The Johnston Fire Union, along with many of their retirees, worked very hard against me during the last election to remove me from office. They also helped their hand-picked person raise most of that $90,000.00.

I also had the previous Mayor’s family members try to get back in power by working with the Fire Union to try and oust me as Johnston’s Mayor, so as you can see, it takes money to run a campaign – especially when you have local unions such as the Fire Union and the Rhode Island State Association of Firemen, working so hard to oust me. But I truly believe that the citizens of Johnston have had it with the Johnston firemen, and that was evidenced in the last election. I hear that the Johnston Fire Union is at it again, trying to get one of their stooges to run against me. I will be ready for the fight, as I was with their previous hand-picked person! So after that long explanation, no, I do not have any plans to run for higher office.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I love fishing and boating on my lake. I have an antique Ski Boat – a 1977 “Ski Tique”, and that boat is so special to me. I love to water ski and wakeboard and at my age – 57 – I can still keep up with the teenagers and younger crowd who do the same. Being on the water is very relaxing to me. I wish we had 6-8 months of spring and summer in our great state so I could enjoy boating longer. In Rhode Island, our spring and summer seasons are too short and the weather is, as we all know, very unpredictable. I also really enjoy fishing as I mentioned previously. I catch and release.

Quick Hitters

Role Models: President John F. Kennedy, President Ronald Regan & General Colin Powell

Favorite Restaurant: Luigi’s – Johnston, RI (eat-in)
La Nuova – Johnston, RI (take-out)

Best Beach: My backyard

Best Book: I have been a registered nurse for the past 26 years, so I love to read medical journals and books about new treatments and techniques, as well as the latest breakthroughs for treating and preventing heart disease and stroke. I especially love cardiac nursing and I have always been very interested in reading about heart attacks and brain attacks (strokes), so I read just about anything and everything I encounter on those subjects.

Advice for the next Joseph Polisena: Get your education first, and then do what you love. Always be ready to help people, no matter who they are or what they need. You will be rewarded not in $$$ - but in self-gratification. Always try and make this world a better place than it is. And of course, always be kind to your parents, because they are only here for a short time.


Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]


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