McKee staff’s top picks put Cumberland at the center of RI’s political universe
PROVIDENCE – While Gina Raimondo Achieved by far for staff when she became governor in 2015 – hiring more that one of the main collaborators of the outgoing Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley – Dan McKee relies on those who are close, familiar and trusted.
More than a few hailstones from zip code 02864. His hometown.
And that makes Cumberland the home of the 2014 New England Regional Little League Baseball Champions, the new center of Rhode Island’s political universe.
It is a 26.45 square mile suburban town, with a population of 35,263 in 2019, which ranked eighth among Rhode Island municipalities. The population is 93.4% white.
Tony Silva is McKee’s chief of staff at $ 148,960.24 in the Lieutenant Governor’s small office. He should have the same title when Raimondo leaves and McKee is sworn in to replace her, most likely this week.
Silva led the Motor Vehicle Division under Gov. Lincoln chafee and before that, the state municipal police training academy.
Silva was also the police chief of Cumberland when McKee was mayor of the town.
“He [also] has been McKee’s campaign manager for the past few years and has been widely rumored as a mayoral candidate, ”Valley Breeze reported in 2014.“ But he stepped out of the political limelight… [saying] challenges remained unresolved at the DMV. “
With Silva already deployed in McKee’s COVID vaccination effort, the new governor would have to rely, at least initially, on other people with ties to Cumberland for some of the day-to-day tasks that a chief of staff would otherwise take care of.
They include: McKee’s current senior political adviser, former chairman of Cumberland City Council Craig Dwyer, and Christophe Farrell.
Farrell helped lead the former state representative. Peter Kilmartinthe first Attorney General campaign, was director of community outreach in the attorney general’s office and later graduated from Quinnipiac University’s law school.
Along the way, Farrell led the pro-McKee Moving RI Forward Inc. Political Action Committee during McKee’s first candidacy for lieutenant governor in 2014.
Farrell appeared in what appeared to be an organizing role during a recent meeting of McKee’s COVID advisory group.
Farrell, a graduate of Cumberland High School, declined to comment on his future role in the new McKee administration.
Dwyer is not from Cumberland.
But he’s been living in the city for almost half a century, and his friendship with McKee dates back 40 years when McKee coached the boys on the Boys & Girls Club basketball team “and because I had girls. , I was coaching the girls. We knocked over there. “
Dwyer was also the treasurer of McKee’s first campaign for lieutenant governor.
He doesn’t yet know exactly what he will do after McKee is sworn in. “Honestly, I don’t really care,” he told Scène politique.
In the office of the lieutenant governor, he declared: “you have to be jack-of-all-trades and do a little bit of everything”.
“I was a senior political adviser. He assured me that it had nothing to do with my age and that he doesn’t always listen to what I have to say anyway,” jokes Dwyer, 73 years.
Dwyer suspects that he may have to stay behind for a while to help whoever McKee chooses to replace him as lieutenant governor. “Maybe I’ll spend some time in between.”
Andrea Palagi, from the Palagi ice cream family, will retain her title of communications director as she boards a flight in the State House to the governor’s office.
She too grew up in Cumberland, attended Cumberland High School from 2009-2012, and wrote a “bi-weekly Cumberland High School News and Events column” for the Valley Breeze.
Palagi, 27, interned in the lieutenant governor’s office while at Emerson College. She has been working full time for McKee since January 2016. FWIW: Her mother, Lesley Palagi, is Director of Communications, Marketing and Events at the North Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.
“Regarding my connection to the Lieutenant Governor, in 2009 I served during the time of Mayor McKeeYouth Commission, a group dedicated to giving young people a voice in municipal government and inspiring them to give back to the community, ” she told Political Scene.
His great-great-grandfather Pierre Palagi founded Palagi’s Ice Cream Co. after coming to America from Italy in 1896.
“Growing up, I spent many summers on the truck with my grandfather who worked for the company all his life. The business eventually sold to its current owner, Alex Arteaga, who worked alongside my grandfather for years.
“There is still Palagis in the ice cream business today,” said Andrea Palagi. “Me, I’m just eating it.”
McKee also tapped the former Pawtucket Times reporter Jonathan bissonnette for its communications team.
At McKee’s request, Raimondo in his last days appointed James thorsen, who grew up a mile from the McKee family in Cumberland, as Acting Director of the Department of Administration.
The DOA is the hub of state government operations. He oversees hiring, payroll, contracts, cash management, budgeting and more.
Raimondo drew Thorsen to the state government to head the Revenue Department in October 2020, when his predecessor took a new job as head of the state lottery.
What do we know about Thorsen?
From 1995 to 1999, he was Deputy State Treasurer with two terms of General Treasurer Nancy J. Mayer, a Republican. (He is currently registered as “unaffiliated.”)
He moved from State House to a pension fund investment management role at State Street Global Advisers Inc., a subsidiary of State Street Bank & Trust Co.
When leaving the treasurer’s office, he told The Bond Buyer: “I started this job during the week of the Oklahoma City bombing, and I am leaving during the impeachment trial of the President of the United States. It was an extraordinary time to be involved in the government.”
After 16 years at State Street, Thorsen held a new role for just under two years: Deputy Director / CFO of the Obamacare State Program known as HealthSource RI.
Thorsen’s relationship with McKee and his family dates back years.
“Dan is a few years older than me. He graduated from Cumberland High School with my sister.… So that means he umpired my CYO basketball games.
“And I pretty much know his whole family and I grew up about a mile from his house.”
As they moved in “parallel orbit (s)”, Thorsen said he “helped [McKee] some ” when McKee first became mayor.
“The town’s finances were a little tough.… Basically, the deal was that I would help them until my name ended up in the paper.… A lot of it was about just straightening the books.”
“And while he was mayor, he regained the city’s credit rating which had fallen by almost three notches.”
Why take the helm of the state agency at the center of the looming struggle for a projected $ 300-500 million deficit?
“He needs help and he needs to have people he knows well. That’s why I want to help.”
Former representative of the State of Pawtucket turned lobbyist Kevin Horan confirmed to Political Scene that he and the McKee team had spoken. His potential new position: legislative director.
As of 2020, Horan was a $ 5,000 per month lobbyist for IGT.
His other clients that year included: Cox Communications, the New England Cable & Telecommunications Association, and Purpose Finance Inc. (DBA Advance America Cash Advance Centers).
Horan represented Pawtucket and part of Lincoln in the Rhode Island House of Representatives from 1977 to 1986.
“I go back a long way with the [lieutenant] governor, “said Horan.” I was the lobbyist for the academies of mayors when this started … [and] for several years afterwards. ”
He traces his friendship with McKee back to “I’m not even sure … just different things. You know how it is in Blackstone Valley … If I’m not mistaken, it was the Pawtucket Country Club. “
“We would be right there.”
A deep dive into the Journal’s archives found this gem of March 1, 2002: “For years, brothers Kevin and Michel horan argued over who is the prettiest. Tomorrow you can judge for yourself.
“The Horans, two ruddy-faced lawyers well known in national and local politics, have both been named Grand Marshals of the city’s 20th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”
“Even though I look younger, I’m the oldest,” admitted Michael. “I just took better care of my body than my brother did. I’m better preserved.”
“As for looking younger, Kevin said that Brother Michael must not see properly. ‘You can imagine what the mirrors must look like in this house. They must not have been dusted for a long time.”
McKee Palagi spokesperson declined to comment on any of McKee’s staff picks.
She said McKee “wants to publish a full list. … Due to the uncertainty of the swearing-in date, some people have yet to give notice to their current employers and we want to respect that as this process is In progress.”
That said, McKee at an earlier stage provided this insight into his thinking:
“My transition team will be a map of Rhode Island. Each of our 39 towns and cities will be represented and its members will reflect the diversity of Rhode Island.”