East Bay

RI native Sean Spicer on journey to White House

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -- A Rhode Island native will soon hold the top communications job at the White House.

Sean Spicer sat down with Eyewitness News for an exclusive interview 48 hours after learning he was President-elect Donald Trump's pick for White House press secretary. The 45-year-old said Trump called him personally to deliver the news.

"He said, 'Congratulations, you're going to be great at this. I'm glad you're going to do it and I'm really proud of you and the work that you've done, and let's do great things together,'" Spicer recalled Trump saying. "It was very inspiring."

On Sunday, Spicer was additionally named White House communications director after Trump's initial pick, Jason Miller, backed out of the job.

A Barrington native, Spicer said his passion for politics blossomed while he attended Portsmouth Abbey School. He volunteered for local races in Rhode Island while in high school and then across the border while studying at Connecticut College. Upon graduating, he began working full time in the field.

"I really found it interesting and inspiring and I liked the intensity, so I just kept doing that," he said.

Most recently, Spicer served as communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee. After Trump clinched the presidency in November, Spicer became an increasingly visible member of Trump's transition team.

"There isn't a boring minute," Spicer said of the transition process.

Spicer said Trump is a "caring and gracious" man behind closed doors, and as press secretary Spicer said he hopes to show the American people more of that side of the president-elect. But Spicer also said Trump will continue to do a lot of his own communicating through Twitter and social media.

"He does communicate in a much bigger way than ever's been done before, and I think that's going to be a really exciting part of the job," he said.

As a native of Rhode Island, Spicer is intimately familiar with the inner-workings of local politics. Although the state is deeply Democratic, Trump's performance in Rhode Island this November was the strongest of any Republican presidential nominee since George H.W. Bush in 1988. Spicer attributes that to what he calls Trump's honest and authentic desire to help Americans and grow the economy.

"I think it resonated with Rhode Islanders who are tired of being told time and time again something is going to get fixed and not seeing results," he said.

And to those Rhode Islanders who didn't vote for Trump, Spicer encourages them to "watch what he does."

"He's a guy that I think people are going to be highly impressed with in terms of his hands-on, no-nonsense, get-things-done agenda," he said.

Spicer isn't the only native Rhode Island in Trump's cabinet, either - his new national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, hails from Middletown. Although Spicer said he doesn't talk with Trump about the Ocean State, he said he and Flynn will chat about the goings-on in their hometowns.

For a man who's climbed the ladder from the East Bay to the West Wing, Spicer said it's an "honor" to be stepping into his new roles.

"You grow up here in Rhode Island and you see things on TV and you wonder, 'How does that person get that job?'" he said. "Now I'm going to have the honor of having that position, and it really is a humbling thing."

Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

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