Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of profiles on the four candidates running for an open seat on South Kingstown's Town Council. Profiles will run through the Sept. 10 edition of the South County Independent. A Q&A feature regarding town issues will appear in the Sept. 17 edition.
SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Candidate Joël Dargan (pronounced Joelle) might be a political newcomer, but he feels his background would bring a unique blend of experience and knowledge to the South Kingstown Town Council.
Dargan, an independent endorsed by the South Kingstown Republican Town Committee, faces Democrat Bryant Da Cruz and independent candidates Jim O’Neill and Liz Gledhill in the Sept. 22 special election to fill the seat vacated by Carol Hagan McEntee, who was elected to House District 33 in a June special election after the resignation of Donald Lally.
Dargan is the only candidate who has not previously run for council, nor has he previously held political office. He sees this as a strength.
“Having lived abroad, having lived in Florida and eventually coming to Rhode Island in 2001, that is something that is unique about me in comparison to the other candidates,” Dargan said. “I think it’s a strength. I can take what I’ve seen from where I’ve lived – the good, the bad and the ugly.”
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, where he played four years of Division I soccer. Later, he earned his master’s in business administration from Salve Regina University.
“I’m very proud of my education, and I think education is very important,” Dargan said.
Dargan is a supporter of the University of Rhode Island, and suggested forming a research center that could partner with the university and bring local jobs to the area.
Dargan works in health care sales, is a licensed real estate agent and operates four consulting and real estate businesses, in addition to owning several rental properties. He also is a soccer coach at Salve Regina University. He and his wife, Julia, have a 16-month-old daughter, Zoey.
Dargan said his business experience would be an asset to the Council and he is a proponent of keeping taxes low.
“I look at everything from a fiscally accountable approach,” he said. “As a town, I think we need to look at being fiscally responsible. I’ve heard from many people, while knocking on doors, that when the budget comes up [for Council review], taxes are being raised. A couple hundred dollars per year for each household, it adds up. Instead of continually raising taxes, we need to take a look at what we’re spending the money on. It doesn’t mean cutting everything; it just means looking at it with more of a business approach.”
As an example, Dargan mentioned the South Kingstown School District’s one-to-one laptop initiative, and said there might be other alternatives to that program, such as giving a tax credit to families with schoolchildren.
If elected, Dargan said he would work to promote and market local businesses. He suggested forming a local food festival to highlight the area’s restaurants.
“[South Kingstown] is a good community,” he said. “We have good schools and a small town feel. My wife goes to the local farmers market every weekend. I believe we need to preserve and grow that culture.
“I decided to live and raise my family in South Kingstown,” he continued. “My roots are now here. I’ve begun a family here, and this is where I want to stay. But I’ve lived in several places. I have a different way of looking at things. I have a fresh perspective.”