Four candidates have filed candidacy forms for the South Kingstown Town Council special election Sept. 22. Three ran unsuccessfully for Council seats in November.
The election will replace former Councilwoman Carol Hagan McEntee, who was elected to House District 33 in a June special election. She served on the Council for seven years.
The candidates are: Bryant Da Cruz will run as a Democrat. Two registered Democrats, Liz Gledhill and former councilor Jim O’Neill, will run as independents. Gledhill ran as a Democrat in November; O’Neill has always run as an independent. They will be joined by newcomer Jöel Dargan, who is unaffiliated, and will run as an independent.
They talked to the Independent this week about their candidacies:
Bryant Da Cruz (D)
“I definitely want economic development to be at the forefront, and fiscal responsibility,” Da Cruz said. “I think what sets me apart is I like to bring people together. My nature is one of helping people. For me, being on the Town Council is a way of helping the community. Also, with my business background, I can see the big picture and how everything works together. I’m not a divisive person; I’m not a person who’s going to go into the Council and make everyone decide what I want to decide.”
He said he is researching the town’s approved sea wall for Matunuck Beach Road, which owners of the Ocean Mist bar and other businesses have opposed, arguing it may damage their establishments. The town has maintained the position that building the wall is necessary to protect public safety, Da Cruz said the situation needs to be resolved and a compromise should be reached.
Da Cruz is the son of immigrant parents who came from the Cape Verde Islands in 1969, and is fluent in Creole. He is a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty and a Union Fire District volunteer firefighter at Station 5 Snug Harbor. He and his wife, Kerin, have two sons.
“I wanted to represent the town in the past, and I saw this as an opportunity for a second chance,” Da Cruz said. “I learned a lot from the previous election, and I plan to campaign more aggressively.”
He plans to raise more money and spend more time visiting residents door-to-door during this campaign.
Jöel Dargan (I)
“I think I’d bring a different perspective to the Town Council,” Dargan said. “I’d be most arguably the youngest Town Council member at the age of 32. I would bring fresh, new business-savvy ideas. I was not born and raised in South Kingstown like most of those on the Council and those running. I would argue that helps me. I’d been fortunate to travel the world, so I have a cultural background.”
Dargan was born in Canada, growing up in a small, French-speaking town near Montreal. From a young age he hoped to attend school in the United States. He graduated from high school a year early and at 16, moved to Florida to attend a prep school, where he played soccer and took coursework in English. He earned a business degree at the University of Rhode Island in 2001, and later, a master’s in business administration from Salve Regina University. He works in health care sales, is a licensed real estate agent, and operates four consulting and real estate businesses, in addition to being a soccer coach at Salve Regina. He and his wife, Julia, have a 14-month-old daughter.
“The reason I’m running is because [the Council] has such a great opportunity to make South Kingstown even better,” Dargan said. “It’s a great town right now. We’ve got great buildings at URI and new ones being built, but we don’t have research centers. Students are leaving, they’re going to work out of state, because there are no jobs. I think we have do something about getting research centers right around URI.”
Dargan said he is an advocate for small government and small business and is a proponent of eliminating wasteful spending.
“My generation and my kids’ generation need a voice on the Town Council,” Dargan said. He plans to campaign via social media, posters and door-to-door solicitations.
Liz Gledhill (I)
In November, Gledhill was the sixth top vote getter, trailing Hagan McEntee by just 197 votes.
“I came so close in the last election,” she said. “I have a unique, small business perspective.”
Gledhill has lived in South Kingstown for 30 years. She and husband, Michael “Sled” Gledhill, have one son.
“I would always make choices based on the best options and the most common ground,” Gledhill said. “For example, the sea wall. I need to research carefully each issue the town faces to make the best decision.”
If elected, Gledhill would scrutinize the budget and local taxes. She would like to see updated technology for meetings, such as the meetings broadcasted live on television, with the goal of getting more residents involved with the Council. While once broadcast live, the meetings are now streamed live on the Internet, and rebroadcast on public access television.
Gledhill plans to run a “grassroots,” word-of-mouth campaign.
Jim O’Neill (I)
O’Neill is running on a platform of experience. O’Neill served on the South Kingstown Town Council for 14 years before losing re-election in November. O’Neill has been a resident of South Kingstown for 23 years and is the owner of Coastal Properties Real Estate in Wakefield. He and his wife, Ann, have two adult children.
“I’m running on experience and integrity,” O’Neill said in an interview. “I think to be a part of the Council, you really have to be familiar with everything, to catch up with the past year after the [general] election.”
If elected, O’Neill hopes to address the loss of local governance – maintaining the town’s right to manage property and other issues, which he said has decreased over the years. O’Neill also supports updating the town’s comprehensive plan.
“I never lost my interest in the well-being and future of the town,” O’Neill said, who has been in the audience for most Town Council meetings since he lost in November. “I’ve been to almost every Town Council meeting, I’ve been to Zoning Board meetings, Planning Board meetings.”