JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Johnston residents will soon have a new mayor for the first time in almost 16 years.
After four terms, Mayor Joseph Polisena has just a few more months before a new leader will take the helm. As the race to succeed him starts to take shape, there are two high-profile projects in the works that will likely shape the future of the town.
Polisena knows his final six months as mayor will move quickly before he hands over the reins. But before he does so, he reflected on both the challenges and successes he had while in office.
“The challenging part was basically the pension issue, fixing the pension issue, making sure we had responsible economic development which in turn stabilizes our taxes,” he recalled.
He is keenly aware that his successor will inherit two massive projects. First, is the completion of the massive Amazon fulfillment center which promises to bring several thousands of jobs to the area.
“One of the agreements that I did get from them is that they will have a couple of hiring days for Johnston residents only first, and Johnston residents will have a preference,” Polisena said.
The nearly 4-million-square-foot facility will be located off of Route 6 near I-295. The town is offering the online retail giant a 20-year tax break to build the facility.
Construction began in the fall and the company behind the development, Bluewater Property Group, previously said the goal is to have the facility up and running by spring 2023.
Also on the horizon is the $215 million school construction bond to repair and reconstruct the school facilities across town.
With residents approving the bond, Johnston’s schools will be consolidated into four buildings. Those buildings will include a brand new early childhood center and elementary school, as well as completely renovated middle and high school buildings.
Polisena said this bond will pay for part of the construction and revenue from businesses in town, including the new Amazon facility on Route 6, would contribute to the cost as well.
“It’s a long time coming, the last new school that was built was Johnston High School, and this year is 50 years for me since I graduated so it’s been a while,” he said.
As Polisena’s time as mayor winds down he is hopeful to pass the torch to his son, City Councilor Joseph Polisena Jr., who has already declared his candidacy.
“He’s much calmer, he’s been a lawyer. I’m more likely to argue with you, he’s more likely to sit down and negotiate,” Polisena said.
Polisena Jr. explained that it is going to be the same message, just a different delivery.
“I don’t want anybody to think that because my father is the mayor and he’s the incumbent, that all of this is something that’s going to be passed down. This isn’t going to be passed down to me,” Polisena Jr. explained. “This is something that I’m going to go have before the voters and I’m going to have to earn it. And I’m willing to do that.”
The filing deadline for candidates is the end of June.
Polisena says he is not retiring and plans to continue to teach part-time at Roger Williams once his time in office is done in January.