Candidates for public office have until the end of June to file declarations, but Anthony Verardo is getting a jump on the competition. The chairman of the town’s Planning Board announced this week that he will be seeking the District 2 Town Council seat.
“I’ve thought about it for a long time and it’s something I really want to do,” he said. “I want to get an early start.”
The 50-year-old Lowe’s store manager will be seeking the endorsement of the Democratic Town Committee.
The District 2 position is currently held by Independent Ernest Pitochelli, who has served six terms on the Town Council. Pitochelli said yesterday that he does plan to seek re-election.
Still, with two names in the race already, it appears the fight will be a clean one, as Pitochelli called Verardo a “very nice man,” and Verardo likewise had positive things to say about Pitochelli. His decision to run for the district, he said, was not in reaction to the current representation, but something he’s thought about for quite some time.
Originally from Providence, Verardo moved to Johnston 26 years ago with his wife, a lifelong Johnston resident. They raised their three children in the town; two have since graduated from Providence College and his youngest is currently a junior at the college.
Verardo previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for School Committee but has been involved in many other capacities over the years, including serving seven years on the Zoning Board, and volunteering to serve on both the Land Trust and the building committee for Johnston schools. He has served as chairman of the Planning Board for the past eight years.
“Living in the town, I just saw there are needs and I wanted to address them. The way to address them is to get involved,” he said.
Verardo believes his experience in public service will serve him well, particularly when it comes to economic development. He applauded the administration for their work in bringing in business, and said he hopes the Planning Board has been helpful in that ongoing mission.
“We’ve brought a lot of good, solid businesses into the town. It will keep the taxes as low as possible,” he said. “We’ve probably had more construction in this town in the last four years than any other city or town in Rhode Island.”
When asked what types of businesses he would like to see added to the tax rolls, Verardo said he believes larger industrial development should locate near the landfill, but he appreciates the contribution of small businesses, especially when they give qualified Johnston residents preference for jobs.
He believes part of the appeal is Johnston’s central location, but said the town also makes the process easier on business owners, and businesses are likely attracted to the look and feel of the town. Maintaining that feel while bringing in business, he said, has been a balancing act.
“We want to maintain the town atmosphere here,” he said. “It brings in people from other towns because it is a good environment.”
He cited community events like the Apple Festival and youth athletics as other draws for civic-minded businesses.
Verardo has no pet projects in mind yet for District 2, but from what he hears from his neighbors, he thinks not raising taxes and improving infrastructure are priorities in his area and across the town.
“Taxes are always the number one concern,” he said.
Mayor Joseph Polisena said he plans to put together a ballot referendum in order to improve roads, and Verardo is confident that such an initiative would pass.
“The voters have always come on strong when it comes to putting money into the town,” he said, citing the new Mohr Library and preserving open space as examples of bonds that residents have supported.
Overall, Verardo thinks people are happy to live in Johnston and have reasonable expectations for local government.
“Most people don’t want a lot from the town, but they want what they deserve,” he said, adding that ensuring public services run efficiently and cost-effectively would be a priority if elected.
Verardo was quick to say he doesn’t want to make any promises, but the one promise he did make was to be accessible to constituents if elected.
“I will answer my phone. If you call me, I will return your phone call and get you answers,” he said. “It’s not always going to be what they want to hear, but that’s what I offer people.”