By Elizabeth F. McNamara
In perhaps the clearest indication that not all Republicans are happy with the Republican-led Town Council, former Town Council President Michael Isaacs, a Republican, will be voting for candidates who seek to get rid of Town Manager Gayle Corrigan.
“Much of this election has focused on the town manager,” Isaacs said via email. “As I have said before, we need to end the polarization and confrontation and engage in consensus building to address the issues facing our Town. I have come to the conclusion that to do this, there needs to be a majority of people on the Town Council who are committed to appointing a new town manager.”
That would mean Isaacs is not voting for Republicans Town Council President Sue Cienki, Councilman Andy Deutsch and Charles Callanan or unaffiliated candidate Sean O’Leary, all of whom have said they supported Corrigan.
Those who have come out against Corrigan are all five Democrats – Councilman Mark Schwager, Mike Donegan, Renu Englehart, Caryn Corenthal, and Mike Zarrella – and unaffiliated candidate Bill Higgins.
Not that Isaacs has abandoned the GOP in other contests. He said he would be voting for Republicans Anthony Giarrusso for House Dist. 30 and Dana Gee for Senate Dist. 35.
Another Republican former Town Council president, Marilyn Kiesel – who served on the council from 1994 to 2004 – said she will be voting for Democrats Mark Schwager and Mike Donegan and independents Bill Higgins and Sean O’Leary due to concern over the town’s current course.
“I am not looking at political party at all in my decisions,” she said about local races. “I think it’s more important to base it on the person and their position.”
Republican Judy Stenberg has a Mark Schwager sign in her yard, not too far from signs for Republicans Giarrusso and gubernatorial candidate Alan Fung.
Stenberg said she didn’t like Corrigan’s decision to rehire Kristen Hendrikson, who had gotten an $86,000 payout for leaving her post as fire clerk in 2016 only to be hired back in 2017.
Stenberg, who attended the Oct. 15 candidates forum at the high school, said she also liked what she heard from Charles Callanan there. Callanan is a Republican. Beyond that, Stenberg said she wasn’t sure who else, if anyone, she would vote for for Town Council. She said while she and her husband are both Republicans, “We don’t vote for somebody just because they are Republican.”
Sharon Siedliski grew up in a Republican family and was a registered Republican when she and her family moved to East Greenwich from nearby Cowesett in 2016.
“We moved in October and the election was November. I voted Republican,” she said. Then, in March 2017, Siedliski started hearing about school budget issues. Quickly, she said, she realized she needed to be paying attention to the Town Council, since it holds the purse strings.
“I disaffiliated and registered as a Democrat,” she said, attributing the change to what’s been going on in the town.
“I’m against Gayle Corrigan – I don’t support her and I don’t support any candidate who supports her,” Siedliski said. “She may be really intelligent but I don’t think she’s the right person for this job.”
Needless to say, not all Republicans are unhappy with the current Town Council, including this resident, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“I support Sue [Cienki, current Town Council president and a Republican] first and foremost because she is trying to tame the town’s spending. That does not seem to be a major concern to most other candidates – nor to the town’s most vocal voters – so unless the quiet-majority also frets about spending, we can expect the resumption of large tax increases, which just underscores the need to get more serious about moving.”
Republican Bill Wray said he hadn’t finalized his slate yet, but said this was what he would be basing it on: “that town finances need to be absolutely transparent; that we need to face up to the crisis in terms of pension costs; and that our taxes have grown to be too high in relation to other towns and need to be brought under control.”
He said Sue Cienki was an advocate for those principals but that he also liked Mike Donegan, a Democrat, because “he can do arithmetic, which is really what all of this comes down to.”
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