2016-02-25 / Opinion

EDITORIAL

A New-Old Beginning at City Hall

Perhaps it was only fitting that the local soap opera entitled “Who’ll be the Next Newport City Manager?” limped painfully toward a long-awaited denouement amid technology-fed rumors, and a “Who’s in charge here?” atmosphere at City Hall.

With the external interview process seemingly close to finished, rumors persisted that interim City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. had had a ninth-inning change of heart and was, despite the late hour, interested in taking the position on a permanent basis.

As time went by and the number of candidates dwindled, a decision seemed imperative and Mr. Nicholson agreed to accept the job on Feb. 24, subject to both sides working out an employment agreement.

So with a City Council vote of 6-1, they got their man. But strangely, after 20 months without a permanent Newport city manager, it did not seem at all like a break-out-the-champagne moment as the council’s 75-minute “executive session” (read: closed meeting to the press and public) in the boardroom at the Marriott Hotel broke up.

Mr. Nicholson was the first to emerge. When asked whether reporters should address him as the new city manager, he replied, “No, I’m just Joe.” Then, he continued to say that he needed to get home to take his dog for a walk.

Really?

At-Large Councilor Justin S. McLaughlin was the only member to cast a no-vote. He and Third Ward Councilor Kathryn E. Leonard left the boardroom without comment.

Vice Chair Marco Camacho said, "Most important is the well-being of the community. He's showing his loyalty to the community by taking the reins and stepping up to help the city."

Time will tell how the people of Newport will react to all of this. Perhaps, like us, they will wonder why he didn’t want the job in the beginning. And what made him change his mind?

While we respect Mr. Nicholson's competence in his work as interim manager, it is unfortunate that he did not make his intentions known sooner. That would have spared the City Council, the city’s Department of Human Resources, and the steering committee that screened candidates many months of needless toil.

When all is said and done, let bygones be bygones. We hope that Mr. Nicholson stays on the job longer than the two-and-a-half years that his predecessor served the city.

And one more thing. In a high-tech world filled with blogs that only sometimes get things right, we at Newport This Week intend to continue to present accurate local news reports in our pages.

So to Mr. Nicholson, when we call, it won’t hurt to return our calls. We won’t bite.

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