Remembering the Man in the Middle

by | Nov 7, 2018

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.

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Judi Zimmer
Judi Zimmer
November 7, 2018 5:59 pm

Funny that this is written only after the Republicans have lost their hold on the Town Council. The past few years have demonstrated the disconnect of the current council with the wishes of the constituents and the lack of willingness to meet in the middle. That’s exactly what led to last night’s results. The people have spoken.

November 7, 2018 7:40 pm

1977 – I believe the fire department at that time was volunteer for the most part. I wonder if Lew Thompson was a member of that volunteer corp. A good portion of the local community was at that time. Mr. Lenihan was a school teacher, many school teachers lived in EG at that time. The Allard’s, Alfano, Kershaw, McMahan, Lepry, Mr. Boesch(he was an EG science teacher before his farm became the place to get local meat), as well as others lived in little ole EG. It wasn’t us vs them (them being the town employee’s), the town employee’s were part of us. We all went to school together, played ball together. When they are part of us, we tend to find common ground. But I doubt Cienki, Todd, Deutsch or Granatiero are going to take time from their important lives to volunteer at the fire department to keep us safe. It’s just easier to complain about the outsiders that educate our children, keep us safe.

Alan Clarke
Alan Clarke
November 9, 2018 10:09 am

I cannot say for certain but to my knowledge, there has never been a Democratic majority on the EG town council. There might have been back in the dustbins of history. Democrats have always been the loyal opposition and kept things in check when the Republicans might have appeared to wander.
I can’t say why this past council was so opaque and it puzzles me. The events of the past two years are puzzling because these councilors were all good people somehow trying to do the job.
It has always been a Republican town and until recently, it was well run. I doubt the new council will be able to find faults with the previous 250 years but the most recent council, while heroically attacking those mysterious windmills, clearly did not do so with the support of public and that should be the lesson re-learned for the future… lesson that has been lost in recent years.
The East Greenwich Volunteer Fire Department was not just for putting out fires and getting people to the hospital. It was an institution, a much revered part of what made East Greenwich the great place it was. It, the fire district, the fire department, all members were part of the community, often for generations. It was not part of the town government. That worked well. This does not.
Hopefully we’ll find out soon whatever it was that tripped the hazard light on the recent council. If we don’t, the big “whatever ‘twas” will bite the new one too. I wish the new council luck. Certainly there are spinning sounds heard coming out of several cemeteries of late.

Nancy B Lemoi
Nancy B Lemoi
November 9, 2018 12:11 pm

Alan, Bobby and I moved to EG in 1968. Within a few years Democrats became the majority party on Town Council with Tom McCrystal as Democratic Chairman. Jim Jerue and Gus Capotosto were elected along with one or two other Dems. Mike Lenihan served later, but he was excellent. Then of course there was Vince Bradley. Dr. Schwager and company have a hard job ahead of them. We wish them well.

Alan Clarke
Alan Clarke
November 9, 2018 3:53 pm
Reply to  Nancy B Lemoi

Funny, I remember the names but their having a majority I do not remember. I was pretty active at the Pendulum and should have known that. Where’s Bill Foster when you need him? Thanks, Nancy.

Mike Pacillo
Mike Pacillo
November 9, 2018 7:35 pm
Reply to  Alan Clarke

Vince was the Pres. , Barbara Tufts was VP, Joe Dailey, and Mike Linehan…this was in 1987


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