Tom Gentz and George Tremblay’s last Town Council Meeting
November 14 marked the last Town Council meeting for Tom Gentz and George Tremblay. Both have done a tremendous job for Charlestown in their six years of town service. Tom was elected to the Town Council in 2010 and George won election to the Planning Commission that same year. In 2012 and 2014 they both ran and were elected to the Town Council.
At their last Town Council meeting on November 14, State and town officials, family members, fellow councilors, and other supporters thanked Tom and George for all that they have done and accomplished. The farewell was a surprise to Tom and George who had said they didn’t want any special recognition.
Letters were read praising Tom and George and thanking them for their extraordinary service from U.S. Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Congressman James Langevin, State Senator Dennis Algiere, and State Representative Blake Filippi. State Senator Elaine Morgan presented citations from the Senate. There was a very warm and amusing letter about George Tremblay written by Mr. Satyajeet from India, praising George for his work to reduce single use plastic bags and replace them with reusable tote bags.
Mary Lou Gentz read a letter from Tom Gentz’s children, thanking him for his work “with reason, determination, and kindness to make Charlestown a better place.” You can read the full text of this letter below.
Sue Tremblay introduced George Tremblay’s children who spoke of how much public service has meant to George.
Ruth Platner spoke of the difference Tom and George have made. The work they have done to protect land and Charlestown’s dark skies will last forever – for all future generations. You can read the full text of those remarks below.
Geoff Marchant read a letter from the Washington County Community Development Corporation thanking Tom for his work and support of affordable housing in Charlestown and George for embracing projects when they made sense for the Town. Churchwoods, Edwards Lane, and Shannock Village Cottages wouldn’t have been possible without Tom’s work and leadership.
Jeff Broadhead, Executive Director of the Washington County Regional Planning Council spoke of PRISM Street Lights, and Tom Gentz’s work as President of that group. Tom’s work is helping not only Charlestown, but many communities across the state reduce costs for street lights, reduce light pollution, and also greatly reduce carbon emissions because of reduced energy usage. He presented a framed copy of a Providence Business News story about PRISM to Tom.
Karen Jarrett thanked Tom and George for partnering with the Charlestown Land Trust to preserve land in Charlestown and for all their other work to benefit the town.
Evelyn Smith thanked Tom and George for their work on affordable housing. George’s analysis of affordable housing helped to clarify where the real need was and allowed everyone to operate on the same page.
JoAnn Stolle thanked Tom and George for their work to stop smoking on the beaches, for their work to stop fugitive dust such as that from the Copar Quarry and their work to curtail ledge blasting.
When comments from the public ended, the Town Council had some comments of their own.
George thanked David Petrarca and Peter Ruggiero for their excellent help with legal matters and Mark Stankiewicz and all the town staff for their assistance. He thanked the other town councilors for their congeniality and the voters for granting him the privilege to serve.
Bonnie Van Slyke thanked Tom and George for their great senses of humor, their great work ethic, their tireless efforts for the common good of all citizens, their remarkable ability to understand all sides of issues and determine the best course of action. They have the best qualities that one looks for in a public servant. You can read the full text of those remarks below.
Virginia Lee thanked George for being kind, courteous, and clear, for all his work researching issues, for being a good will ambassador, for his humor, for a kind heart balanced with an acute intelligence and the “ability to be fearless for what you feel is right.” She expressed how privileged she felt to have served with Tom and presented him with a card with a goose on the front. This was a humorous reference to Tom’s work oiling goose eggs which has removed many thousands of pounds of nitrogen from the coastal ponds.
Denise Rhodes thanked Tom for showing her how to get involved and how to make a difference. Both Tom and George had shown her that there is always a way and not to give up.
Tom said he was humbled. He congratulated the new Town Council on their election and also the other newly elected state officers. He reviewed his six years, saying when he took office the Town was not civil but he had done his best to move the town forward. He said he was proud to have served with the other Town Councilors over those six years. He spoke of his favorite accomplishments, and things that still remain unaccomplished. He was proud to have hired excellent town staff and he spoke at length on those hires. He described the creation of the town employee handbook. Town hall morale was at an all time low prior to 2010 and this handbook and that process and the hiring of Chief Allen and Mark Stankiewicz did much to improve that morale. The Bradford Quarry with its massive piles of silica dust now is under state law to keep those piles watered. The formation of PRISM, of which Tom is President, has already installed 16,000 LED streetlights. Once all the streetlights are converted to LEDs, municipalities will save $12 million per year and reduce carbon dioxide by 31,000 tons per year. This is the greenest project in the state’s history and it saves taxpayers money. ChurchWoods will allow moderate income Charlestown residents to age in place in town. ChurchWoods happened in spite of lack of help and action from Rhode Island Housing. Tom also described the Potable Water Working Group, and the Charlestown Recommended Landscaper Process to reduce fertilizer entering the groundwater and coastal ponds. He talked of his work with Charlie Vandemoer, Refuge Manager Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, oiling goose eggs. This has so far taken 1.6 million pounds of goose droppings out of the coastal ponds. There is still work left undone. Tom spoke of the Bradford Quarry that continues to blast and impacts citizens in Charlestown and Westerly and his hopes that Westerly will purchase the property for open space. He hopes the next Town Council can pass an extraction ordinance to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Charlestown residents. Shannock Village Cottages is unfinished and being delayed by Rhode Island Housing. We still need a conservation easement on the Charlestown Moraine Preserve. Tom thanked the Town for the privilege to serve. You can read the full text of Tom’s remarks here.
Below are some of the comments spoken at the meeting. We’ll have more of these soon. Click on a blue bar to open.
Thank you for stepping up over the past six years to support the town we grew up in. In that time, we have seen you work with reason, determination, and a kind heart to make Charlestown a better place. While you were never much of a politician, you always knew how to make decisions that would generate the greatest benefit for those around you. You consistently demonstrated your midwestern work ethic in every task you set to, and through that, you brought people together.
You have done great things for the town by working with other partners to make Churchwoods affordable housing for seniors a reality, and you nurtured a statewide network, PRISM, that turned existing street lights into cost-saving, energy efficient LEDs – and saved taxpayer dollars. You were dedicated to the members of the town and spent countless hours on the phone and in meetings with residents. You fostered an open and honest culture.
We could not be more proud of your own special brand of leadership that helped the town move toward more stable management. We’re thrilled the newly elected, CCA endorsed Town Councilors will continue your persistent and conscientious good work and especially thank Julie Carroccia and Steve Williams for stepping up so you could step down. We are happy you can spend more time traveling and of course, tinkering for hours in the garage! You have a standing invitation in Brisbane and San Diego.
Happy Trails to You!
With all our love,
Bill & Maggie
One morning in the early 1990s I was driving to work after learning about a town-changing proposal.
On the URI radio station, Judy Collins was singing a really beautiful cover of the Beatle’s song “In My Life”. The lyrics start:
There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
I thought Charlestown would become a place only in memory. I was discouraged.
I decided to stay in Charlestown, but there always seemed to be an ominous dark cloud over our town. At times we had Town Councilors who achieved a lot of good, like Kate Waterman and Harriet Allen, but that dark cloud still always seemed to be hanging here over Town Hall. In 2006 the dark cloud was attached to a tornado, and that’s when Tom got involved. You got us organized. You ran for Town Council in 2010 and George ran for Planning Commission. In 2012 and 2014 you both ran for Town Council, and each time, you attracted more good people. Amazing things happen when government is run by those whose only agenda is to do good.
25 years after my sad day thinking Charlestown was lost, here’s how a local realtor markets Charlestown at their website:
Charlestown is the most rural of Rhode Island’s beach towns. The sleepy villages and picturesque idylls offer residents tranquility and easy access to natural resources. Charlestown’s sheltered salt ponds, coves, and tributaries provide wonderful settings with a variety of opportunities for canoeists and kayakers. Extensive trails and conservation areas provide entertainment for hikers, campers, and birding enthusiasts alike. The darkest sky between New York and Boston can be found here, and residents can enjoy it every Friday night at the Frosty Drew Observatory when it opens to the public. Thanks to the efforts of organizations such as the Charlestown Land Trust, development has been limited. Open spaces have been preserved and the seasonal farmers market is a mainstay of the Charlestown community.
This is a place that we will remember, and parts of it are now forever – not changed – and not gone.
Here are just a few differences you’ve made. Every time you drive along Rt. 1 there will be that mile long expanse of forest that frames the road, and you both can say, “I did that“. Someone will tell you about the great hike they took in Carolina on the bluffs above the Pawcatuck River, and you can say “I did that“. You’ll look at a star filled sky some clear night and know you had a hand in that too.
Tom and George, you chased that dark cloud away.
At this last meeting of the current Town Council when we bid Tom and George goodbye, I have a little list of qualities that I have observed in both men that I would like to share:
- They are a pleasure to work with, have great senses of humor, and the rare capacity to not take themselves too seriously.
- They have a strong work ethic and have worked tirelessly for the common good of all citizens.
- They possess exceptionally high standards of excellence that guides everything they do.
- They are truly selfless in their service; intellectually honest and wise; thoughtful and respectful of all; loyal to the town and to staff and volunteers; tenacious; and highly resourceful.
Most of all, each has a remarkable ability to understand all sides of issues, to balance arguments, and to identify the best courses of action.
In short, Tom and George embody all the best qualities that one looks for in a public servant. Their many accomplishments speak to these qualities. They are amazing examples to follow.