New beginnings and a big surprise at Johnston Town Council inauguration

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Inauguration night for the Johnston Town Council has never been more different than it was Monday.

The Johnston Municipal Courthouse echoed with applause from masked attendees as Mayor Joseph Polisena swore in the five-member Town Council. The members include President Robert V. Russo and Vice President Joseph M. Polisena Jr. – who were each reelected to their posts – along with and District 1 Councilwoman Linda L. Folcarelli, newcomer District 2 Councilwoman Lauren A. Garzone and District 5 Councilman Robert J. Civetti.

Polisena also issued the oath of office to Jacqueline Grasso, Chief Judge of the Johnston Municipal Court, JMC Auxiliary Judge Frank Manni and new Probate Court Judge Priscilla Facha DiMaio.

The night’s highlight, though, was a special surprise announcement for the purpose of naming the Municipal Courthouse Conference Room in honor of Paul J. DiMaio’s 43 years of service.

“This is something I wanted to do,” Polisena said. “It’s also something the council wanted to do as a well-deserved honor for an outstanding individual.”

The resolution was proposed by Polisena Jr., but he emphasized it “was something we collectively agreed upon.”

The resolution surprised the distinguished and widely respected judge, who the mayor noted has helped countless people in over four decades of service.

Polisena requested that DiMaio and his wife Priscilla – who has been appointed as his successor – and the Town Council members, judges, former Municipal Court Judge Mike DiChirro and Court Administrator Richard J. DelFino Jr. exit to the newly named room, where the mayor unveiled a beautiful plaque declaring the room’s new name.

DiMaio looked at the plaque, his wife Judge Priscilla by his side and smiling, that read: “This conference room is dedicated for his 43-year career serving as the Probate Court Judge for Johnston Municipal Court. In sincere appreciation of dedicated service, diligence and unselfish commitment to the citizens of the Town of Johnston.”

The retiring judge, who DelFino Jr. pointed out holds the record for the longest-serving probate court judge in the state and is a record that will probably never me equaled, said: “I’m humbled and honored. I’ve really enjoyed this job but I’m not a computer guy so I figured it was time to retire … I’m also honored to have my wife Priscilla take over this important position. She will do a fantastic job. Thank you to everyone who made this night special.”

DiChirro, meanwhile, offered, “Paul DiMaio has been a fixture in this town and he’s known throughout the state as the Dean of Probate Court judges. Forty-three years … now that is without question an incredible accomplishment.”

That also holds true for Russo, who was accompanied by his daughter Sophie and Monday night was voted as president for the seventh time. He is in his 14th two-year term in the District 4 seat that was previously held by Louis Prata Sr.
For Polisena Jr., he moved into the District 3 seat for the second time in as many years after taking over for former councilman and current School Committee member David Santilli Sr.

Monday night was also special for Garzone, who previously served a four-year term on the School Committee and was not challenged for the District 2 Town Council seat formerly held by David Santilli Jr.
The night also held a special place in Folcarelli’s heart, as she sported a beautiful sparkling silver donkey pin – the Democratic mascot – that she explained was once a gift from her late uncle Giovanni Folcarelli, the one-time lieutenant governor of Rhode Island.

Civetti, meanwhile, began his third term as the District 5 Town Council representative, which was formerly occupied by Stephanie Manzi.
“What a great night for a number of our outstanding public officials,” offered Joseph J. Razza, the town’s new police chief who recently succeeded Richard S. Tamburini and was in attendance to show support for his fellow town leaders. “This was Johnston pride at its very best.”

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