2016-02-25 / Front Page

Nicholson Tapped as Manager

By Barry Bridges

After a year-long nationwide search for Newport’s next city manager, councilors have turned to native son Joseph Nicholson Jr. to assume the position.

He has been in the role on an interim basis since the resignation of Jane Howington in mid-2014.

Councilors finalized their choice in an afternoon executive session on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano revealed the selection at the council’s regular meeting later on Wednesday. “The council has voted to support Joseph Nicholson as our new city manager. It’s subject to contract negotiations, but we wanted to make the announcement, congratulate Joe, and thank him for his service.”

City leaders expressed their confidence in Nicholson through a 6-1 vote, with Justin McLaughlin dissenting. Napolitano said that the employment contract will likely be finalized by early March.

The decision to hire Nicholson, a long-time fixture in Newport’s municipal government, follows two separate recruiting efforts through an outside consulting firm and the city’s Human

Resources Department. In a conversation with Newport This Week, Napolitano said that two strong outside candidates recently withdrew their names from consideration.

Nicholson, who did not return a call seeking comments, has previously said he was not interested in the permanent job.

“He changed his mind,” Napolitano said. “Everyone makes decisions at different times for different reasons. I was surprised, but pleasantly so.”

Napolitano added that Nicholson will be taking the necessary steps to wrap up his law practice.

The mayor rejected any suggestion that the council might be open to criticism for expending time, effort, and money to hire someone already sitting in City Hall. She pointed again to Nicholson’s change of heart in how he viewed the opportunity.

“What he found out over time as the interim is that he really liked it. He’s a very deliberative person and considers everything from A to Z, and I think that’s what happened,” she concluded. “But of course there will always be naysayers.”

Exiting the executive session, several councilors offered their comments.

“We looked hard at Joe’s accomplishments and his leadership…. He has a clear vision of the city for the next five years and beyond,” said First Ward Councilor Marco Camacho.

“During Joe’s time as interim manager, things could have been stagnant, but they weren’t,” said Second Ward Councilor Lynn Ceglie. “We would have lost momentum with anyone else.”

Nicholson is a graduate of Providence College and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He took his first position with the City of Newport in 1985 as assistant city solicitor.

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