NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — This year Narragansett Town Manager James Tierney chose to have his annual employment review with the Town Council, typically a closed-door event, in public on Monday.
Council members each had a chance to ask Tierney questions or make comments, and Tierney was able to respond and to give his own self-evaluation.
The previous Town Council hired Tierney in August 2019. He previously was the chief of operations for RIPTA since 2014.
Last year, the council gave Tierney a positive evaluation and extended his contract for a year.
“I love this job. I pour my heart into it, and I love serving the town. Those who know me know that I eat it up,” Tierney said. “Maybe a little too much, with some pasta, but I do.”
Tierney offered some of the highlights that town staff and his office have experienced in the past year, one which he acknowledged was difficult because of COVID-19.
The manager praised the town department heads and staff, calling them skilled and valuable employees who put in long hours.
“I listen to staff and truly respect them,” he said. Tierney requested a wellness bonus for the senior management team, and has often touted their accomplishments publicly.
Among his accomplishments, Tierney noted that he led efforts to eliminate a persistent standing water problem in the town clerk’s office, and mold issues in the finance department.
In trying to improve efficiency in operations, he cited the filling of a vacancy in the building department office by internally hiring a qualified candidate from the public works department.
He also cited $49,000 in savings to the town by agreeing to let the state building commissioner take on the duties of the local building official while the town searched for a long-term replacement for the vacant position.
Tierney also secured more than $69,000 in state “Take it Outside” grants for businesses to offer outdoor services during COVID.
Statewide, Tierney was elected president of the R.I. City and Town Managers Association, and vice president of the League of Cities and Towns. The governor’s office appointed him to several COVID-related action and advisory groups.
The town has so far submitted $450,000 in FEMA reimbursement requests and has received $338,000, he said. It received $8.5 million in grants in the last two years.
Narragansett also is looking at an un-audited surplus of $2.5 million, Tierney noted.
Council members largely complimented Tierney on his performance in the manager’s position.
“He works well with the staff and I hope he continues to be our town manager,” Councilor Patrick Murray said.
“I know it’s a difficult job being town manager, I know you love it, and we’re lucky that you do,” Council member Ewa Dzwierzynski said.
Dzwierzynski said Tierney is “cool calm and collected,” and applauded his quick responses to her inquiries and his involvement in constituent issues, such as setting up a study for speeding problems on a local road.
Councilor Deborah Kopech offered a similar example of how she called him shortly after the last election to address a sidewalk issue in front of her house.
“Jim spoke to somebody, they came, they filled in the spot where I fell and that was really helpful,” she said.
President Jesse Pugh offered a “mostly positive” review – Tierney is well liked by staff and residents. He excelled during COVID.
“You got through it well and I appreciate that,” Pugh said. “You are always accessible and available to the council.”
Pugh said he wanted to see that the town’s so-called “three student” and “four unrelated” ordinances for rental properties are enforced and asked Tierney how he would do that.
Tierney said the town couldn’t do much about any leases signed prior to the adoption of the controversial “three student” ordinance, which limits rental homes to three college students.
“We are addressing them as complaint-driven at this point,” with police and other authorities, Tierney said. The town also is preparing for when the current leases expire, he added.
Pugh said that was the only real issue he had a concern about.
Tierney, who has been a town resident for 29 years, was inspector general for the City of New York’s Department of Investigation from 2011 to 2013. In that role, he was responsible for “investigating corruption, fraud, wrongdoing, gross mismanagement and/or waste involving city agencies,” according to his resume. He oversaw a team of 40 investigators that had oversight of many of the largest agencies in New York City.
He began his career with the South Kingstown police as a patrolman and worked his way through the department to become assistant patrol commander, prosecution division commander, head of the detectives division and lastly a patrol commander, from 2009 to 2011.