Joe Polisena Jr. announces bid for Johnston mayor


Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena introduced his son to an overflow crowd in an empty storefront in Town Hall Plaza. Joe Polisena Jr. announced his candidacy for mayor, in front of friends, family, local politicians and key community representatives.

The elder Polisena is finishing his final year in office and hopes his son will next occupy the mayor’s office, once this last term has expired. Polisena Jr. currently serves as Vice-President of Town Council, and recently left his job as an attorney working in Gov. Dan McKee’s administration.

Joe Polisena Jr. delivered the following remarks Monday night:

“I want to thank all of our distinguished guests for attending, but more importantly I want to thank all of you for attending. That’s because today isn’t just about me. Today is about you, it’s about us and the transformation our town has made. Every single one of you has played a part in that transformation. No matter how big or how small, every one of your contributions mattered to help improve our town. And today, I hope to continue forging our town forward as I announce my candidacy for Mayor of the town of Johnston.

Too often, many elected officials get caught up in issues that matter to few while ignoring the needs of many. The trending topics on social media seem to take hold of headline news while the daily struggles we all experience get ignored. I pledge to each and every one of you, your daily struggles will never be ignored.

When it seems like everyone else is focused on the latest headline that has no impact on you, your family, or your finances, I want you all to know that I’ll remain focused on issues like how you can keep more of your hard earned money, how to improve your quality of life, and how to make sure your hard work and success is rewarded, not penalized.

And that’s what this campaign comes down to. Staying focused on the fundamentals: stable taxes through economic development; continued investment in public education; supporting our police and fire for strong public safety; and high quality public works services of trash pickup, snow plowing and road repairs.

These aren’t the so-called hot topic issues, you’ll never see them trending on social media and they’ll never be the leading story on the news, but, I believe, these are the types of issues that matter the most to you, and these are the issues I’ll always prioritize, no matter what outside noise tries to come through.

It’s not about more government or less government, it’s about smarter government. Knowing when to get involved and when to back off, knowing when to invest and when to conserve. Knowing that we shouldn’t go looking for problems to fix, instead, we should be quickly reacting to problems that arise.

During the beginning of COVID, I proposed a first in the state ordinance to grant emergency outdoor dining licenses restaurants. That’s my vision of smart government: a quick reaction to a sudden problem.

When I was pushing for the town to increase our school facilities bond an additional $20 million, so we could take advantage of every incentive. That is an example of knowing when to invest.

There isn’t one sole thing that qualifies me, nor anyone else, for this job. It’s the totality of past experience that matters. And I’ve tried to make myself as well rounded as possible with legal, educational, and most importantly, practical experience. This position isn’t something I’m owed or something I deserve. This is something I must earn. And earning it starts and ends with you, the residents of this town.

Success will be achieved through strength: Strength to make tough decisions. Strength to face criticism and not back down. And strength to always stand up for you, the people of Johnston. I will never abandon my principles of common sense to appease a loud minority.

And that leads me to a message, I as a moderate, Centrist Democrat, must deliver to all Democrats: Stand up. Stand up and take a stand against the loud minority who wake up in the morning seemingly looking to be offended. Stop thinking they represent the majority. They don’t.

In 2019, one of my favorite studies came out, from Pew Research Center; it’s regarding Twitter. I cite it all the time and I’m going to cite it again now. Its conclusion, simple, but telling: 10 percent of users account for 80 percent of Tweets.

What does this mean? It means America, Rhode Island, and Johnston for that matter, isn’t Twitter. It isn’t Facebook. And it isn’t cable news. We cannot continue to abandon our constituency, and all notions of common sense, for the sake of trying to appease an extreme minority. We cannot judge people of the past by the standards of today. We cannot pigeonhole groups within groups. And we cannot continue to cancel, shun and ostracize those who have a different opinion than we do. What has it gotten us? A smaller tent.

It’s undeniable that our big tent we’ve always been known for has shrunk to a tent of costal communities and urban cores. Look at Rhode Island — draw a line down the middle of the state.

The western, inland half is red, and the urban, coastal half is blue. And it’s no secret, over the past decade, the trend in Johnston continues to move toward.  However, before you make your own assumptions, there’s another trend I’d like to share with you. With the new census data out, Johnston is leading the state with another trend: the highest Latino population growth per capita. It’s a 141 percent increase in the same 10 years of the political trend I just previously mentioned. So, if you can’t see the correlation, it’s because you’re purposely not looking.

We have to abandon our faculty lounge politics and instead, reach out to working people. Working people, not defined by what they do, but how they do it. Up at dawn, working all day, coming home exhausted in the evening, struggling to find quality time to spend with family and friends. Those are the people we must speak to. Not with elitism or condescension, but with a common-sense message of economic freedom. Embracing our cultural differences and even our big tent political diversity, but also understanding we all share the same common goals: economic and social freedom, strong unions, who helped many of us here today reach the middle class, good schools, safe communities, fair taxes, and an opportunity for our children to lead to a life better than our own. Most of our conflicts are based on a failure to communicate rather than a contest of values.

I want those who feel disillusioned and exhausted by both the extreme left and the extreme right to know I hear you and I share your disappointment, disgust and fatigue. Democrats, Independents, and yes, even Republicans. While we have some beliefs scattered across the political spectrum, if we embrace our core values of moderate, common-sense principles, we can make unity less of a talking point and more of a reality.

I would like to thank my family for all of their support, but most importantly my wife, Samantha. Not only are you a great wife, but you are an amazing mother. We’re about to go on a journey together. It’s going to be tough. Times will get hard. You’ll see and hear things you don’t like. But always know there isn’t anyone else I would rather take the journey with than you.

So, in closing, I think it’s undeniable the progress we’ve made over the years. But it’s not only about where we’ve been or where we are now, more importantly, it’s about where we are going. And I would ask all of you for your support. Because I know, when we work together, Johnston thrives. Thank you.”

Editor’s Note: Are you running for office in Johnston? Announce your candidacy in the Johnston Sun Rise. Email Editor Rory Schuler at, with candidate information, announcements and photos.


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