PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island vehicles will soon be sporting new license plates which pay homage to the state’s standard plates for the past 25 years.

Gov. Dan McKee announced during a media briefing Wednesday that the winner of the state’s license plate contest was Willem Van Lancker of South Kingstown. The new design, featuring smaller blue waves and an anchor, will be rolled out later this year on state-issued license plates.

Rhode Islanders voted online for their favorite design out of a pool of five finalists, which featured other wave designs and the Newport Bridge. Approximately 300,000 votes were cast, according to the state.

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Van Lancker, a Rhode Island School of Design alum, said winning the contest is meaningful because this is his home state.

“I find that the state’s given me a ton, and so it’s cool to be able to give something back, even if it’s in a symbolic way,” he said.

Finalists for the RI State Plate Design Contest (Story continues below gallery.)

McKee also gave updates on other state issues, including the leadership changes at the R.I. Department of Human Services (DHS) and R.I. State Police.

The governor has appointed a transition support team for the DHS after its interim director, Celia Blue, stepped down in February:

  • Yvette Mendez, current acting DHS director
  • Liz Tanner, director of the R.I. Department of Business Regulation
  • Ernie Almonte, former chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos
  • Chris Abhulime, McKee’s deputy chief of staff
  • Rosa De Castillo, McKee’s director of community affairs and outreach

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McKee said the hiring process for a permanent director for the agency will start in the summer.

The state’s Medicaid program also has new leadership. McKee announced Kristin Sousa as its permanent director. She had been serving as the interim director since December 2021 and was previously the program’s deputy director.

In regard to the open superintendent position in the R.I. State Police, McKee said he’s interviewed four Rhode Islanders with law enforcement experience.

The position opened up after Col. James Manni announced he was leaving the force to serve as town manager in South Kingstown.

When asked about what’s being done to curb gas prices, McKee said he’s open to options and is in conversation with the General Assembly.

Some lawmakers have suggested suspending the gas tax, but McKee previously said he would rather send checks to residents as a way to offset the high prices.

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McKee was also asked about his message to Rhode Islanders amid a federal investigation into a controversial state contract. He said he wants people to remember his work leading them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the dust settles, and you [the media] come up empty, who’s going to have the courage to write that story?” McKee said.

McKee recently defended the deal with ILO Group, arguing that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies won’t uncover any wrongdoing by him or his administration.

“I can tell you that there’s nothing that is going to come out that is going to reflect on me in a way, in these investigations, nor my administration,” McKee told reporters at the State House last week.