Above: That’s Mike Lenihan, with the beard, in the reviewing stand for the East Greenwich Tercentenary Parade in July 1977. He’s sitting next to East Greenwich GOP town councilor and grand dame Marion Fry, and flanked by GOP town councilor Lew Thompson (left) and state senator John Romano.

A little bipartisanship could go a long way on the Town Council

By Mark Thompson

East Greenwich, as least as far back as I can recall, has long been a Republican town. That was swept away in Tuesday’s election, where the Democrats took all five eats on the Town Council. But this teeter-totter kind of swap isn’t good for the town in the long run (if a non-native who hasn’t lived in East Greenwich for more than 40 years can say so).

I think back to my years after college working for Bill Foster at the Rhode Island Pendulum down at 22 London Street. The council was pretty much all GOP during my time in town, with one key exception—the late Mike Lenihan was the lone Democrat councilor. A well-loved high-school teacher in Scituate—who went on to serve as an elected representative and senator on Smith Hill—Lenihan served as ballast on the GOP majority.

Granted, I saw this only as a reporter, but I recall him working hard to get along with his Republican colleagues—and them to get along with him. It served the council well, which served town government well, which served the town well.

It may be tougher to achieve that kind of political bonhomie in today’s polarized government, but it’s not impossible. All it requires is councilors on both sides to move a bit to the middle for the town’s benefit.

Mark Thompson grew up in East Greenwich and worked at the Pendulum, after college, from 1975 to 1978. He now lives in suburban Maryland outside Washington, D.C.