Major changes in store for Johnston's political scene

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There were some shocking surprises during last Wednesday evening’s Johnston Democratic Town Committee endorsement meeting.

First off, Chairman Richard J. DelFino Jr. had to fight back emotions when his son Richard J. DelFino III, the District 1 Councilman announced he will not seek another term.

DelFino III, whose wife Ariana had just given birth to the couple’s second child, told Mayor Polisena of his intention that was based strictly on his motto, “My family first,” adding “all of my time and commitment is needed at home now more than ever and it’s that time I look forward to spend with them.”

“I have always been very proud of Richard’s accomplishments,” DelFino Jr. said of his son. “His dedication to public service has been impressive. He is a new father of a three-week old son and has a 21/2 year old along and a wife who all come first. He gave a heartfelt and dignified speech explaining the many sacrifices public officials make.”

The decision tugged at the heart-strings of those inside the Mayor Polisena-JDTC headquarters, especially Robert LaFazia, the District 1 School Committeeman, who developed a special friendship with his councilman during the past 3½ years, whether it be about constituent needs or school related programs.

“I’ve been at this a long time,” LaFazia said. “When you run for political office and win, your time is not your own. If I had this to do over again, it would be different; you have to face the facts – your family must come first.”

DelFino delivered a speech to the gathering saying: “I want to thank my family for the sacrifices they have made to allow me to do a job I love. A job that I know I was successful in doing. A special thank you to my Dad; he has always given me the best advice to help me do my job to the best of my ability. I have learned so much from you to what it means to be an honorable public servant.”

DelFino, though, didn’t just announce he wasn’t running for another term, he nominated a “wonderful woman” who he pledged to help win the District I Town Council seat. The JDTC membership listened as Delfino gave ringing endorsement to Linda Folcarelli, who is known in Johnston for her works with veterans and civic affairs that like DelFino has made many contributions to the community.

“Linda Folcarelli said she will never fill Richard’s shoes,” Chairman DelFino noted. “But she said she will work real, real hard to try. However, Mary Cerra pledged her support for Linda while thanking Richard for a job extremely well done.”

“This is a huge loss,” Polisena said of DelFino stepping down. “However, you can’t find anyone kinder and more likeable than Linda Folcarelli – and that goes for friend of foe. She has a great name in District 1 and will have lots and lots of support, as did Councilman DelFino.”

That was just one portion of the JDTC Endorsement Meeting, as Anthony Verardo, who represents District 2 and is the current Town Council President, reportedly filed election papers but did not seek the committee’s endorsement.

David Santilli Jr. – son of Councilman David Santilli – will make his first-ever run for public office and the District 2 seat by way of receiving the JDTC’s endorsement for the November election.

District 3, which Santilli Jr.’s father and long-time Johnston businessman represents, will also have a new council person after the upcoming election.

Joseph M. Polisena Jr., an attorney and son of Mayor Joseph and Lucy Polisena, had been engaged in conversations with Santilli about a possible run for office and the incumbent councilman – who decided to step down because of health reasons – encouraged him to do so.

“My son has seen me give 24 years of public service and now he wants to commit to that and give back to his community,” the Mayor said. “He’s been a good son … he’s a lawyer … he’s always been respectable … he’ll be a great representative on our Town Council.”

Meanwhile, there were no newcomers for the District 4 and 5 Town Council seats, currently held by Robert V. Russo and Robert J. Civetti, respectively who received the JDTC endorsements.

“Once again it is an honor to have the support of the Democratic Party in continuing John’s journey to become the greatest town in the state,” Russo said. “It is only through hard work, cooperation and vision can we all work together to promote confidence in Johnston which results in both business and people wanting to reside and do business here. There are a lot of great opportunities on the horizon which will further propel our community’s quality of life. I look forward to the term ahead and working with a great group of people.”

Unlike Russo, who has served more terms than any other current council person, Civetti will be seeking his second two-year term.

“Once again this election year I sought the support and nomination of the Democratic Town Committee,” Civetti said after receiving a unanimous vote. “I believe the town continues to move in the right direction under the leadership of the Mayor and his administration along with members of the Town Council. There is still a lot of work to be done, that’s why I’m seeking re-election.”

Civetti, a CPA who is active in Johnston sports and the Lions Club, said, “I believe in transparency in government and over the past two years I recommended that the Town begin using the ClerkBase system or some other system for posting minutes to council meetings and making other information available to the public,”

The mayor added that he believes in transparency and therefore his administration worked with the Town Clerk and implemented the use of the ClerkBase system. Now, the residents of the town have easy access on line to minutes of meetings, approved resolutions and ordinances. The system will continue to be developed so that taxpayers can stay informed and have easy access to information on line.

Civetti said he’s also seeking re-election to that he can continue to work with colleagues on the Town Council and School Committee and Administration “as we explore the construction and/or renovation of our school buildings.”

The Johnston School Committee will also have some new faces following the November election.

In District 1, LaFazia does not have an election as his term has not yet expired.

However, District 2 School Committee member Lauren Garzone will not seek re-election, so at the JDTC meeting, the endorsement went to Sawn Aloisio, a paralegal and law office manager who will be making her first-ever run for political office.

Janice Mele, chairperson of the School Committee, is unopposed while in District I Joe Rotella – like LaFazia – does not have an election as his term has not expired.

The District 5 School Committee seat that is currently occupied by Gena Bianco, will also have new face in the November election, as former member Susan Mansolillo received the JDTC’s endorsement and will run unopposed in November.

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