2016-11-17 / Front Page

Winthrop Returns as the City's Mayor

By Olga Enger

Following an upset in the 2014 election, former Newport City Councilor and Mayor Henry “Harry” Winthrop demonstrated a commanding comeback in his return to City Hall.

After Winthrop received the highest number of votes in the at-large race on Election Day this year, the council-elect named him as mayor in a unanimous vote held during a Nov. 16 caucus. The appointment is unofficial until the swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 4.

“I’m humbled by the voters making me the top vote-getter,” said Winthrop, 66, who is retired from a career at Electric Boat’s submarine facilities at both Quonset Point and in Groton, Connecticut. “I’m also happy the majority of council supported me as mayor.”

Council appointed Second Ward Councilor Lynn Ceglie to serve as vice chair.

Under the city’s Charter, the council may select any at-large candidate to serve as mayor. However, newly elected Councilor Susan

Taylor said that process was intimidating, as both Winthrop and current mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano asked for support.

“I don’t want to be in anyone’s camp,” said Taylor. “It’s damaging to the unity of the council. It’s particularly difficult for new members who really aren’t prepared for the process.” She may ask her colleagues to support a Charter amendment that would name the highest vote-getter as mayor, as long as the candidate has served at least one term in recent history.

Since the 1990s, only half of Newport mayors earned the most votes in the election. In 2014, for example, Councilor Naomi Neville was the top vote-getter, but the council named Napolitano, who has served since 1992, as mayor.

Winthrop was first elected to the Newport City Council in 1990 and served two terms. Later, he filled a vacated Fourth Ward seat for eight months in 1995. After some time away from office, he was once again elected in the fall of 2010, and assumed the mayorship in August of 2012 upon the resignation of then-Mayor Stephen Waluk. He served as mayor throughout his next term, ending in December 2014. Winthrop pointed to his public support of a controversial casino referendum as the key reason for his defeat in the last election.

“I think we are going to be fine. Harry does have experience. I think that will serve him well,” said Napolitano.

Now that Winthrop is back at the helm, his priorities are consistent with that of his campaign, including the development of the North End, especially the realignment of the Newport Pell Bridge ramp, acquisition of the Naval Hospital property, and the proposed innovation hub at the Sheffield School.

“[The North End] is the biggest economic project since the redevelopment of downtown Providence. It will receive significant federal and state attention. It is a project that will bring jobs to the city,” said Winthrop. He added the process will be driven by public input.

His goals align with the momentum of the former council and city staff.

“We will pick up where Jeanne left off,” said Ceglie, who credited Napolitano for pushing many of the long-term initiatives along during the last two years. “I think Harry is going to be great. He is steady and strong. Everyone wants to work together. I feel strongly that the innovation center will become a reality. It’s the first time in a long time that we can actually say we are going to have an influence in the very long term, and that’s exciting.”

Winthrop also wants to complete a strategic plan by March of 2017.

“We haven’t had one in the past. We need to agree on our objectives moving forward,” he said.

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