PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Mayor-elect Brett Smiley announced Tuesday a big shakeup in the city’s public safety leadership, with two high-profile officials stepping down and a new fire chief coming in.
Smiley — who’s poised to be sworn in as mayor next Monday — announced that both Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré and Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements are leaving after years in the jobs.
Smiley also announced that he is naming Derek Silva, a 16-year veteran of the Providence Fire Department, as fire chief. That position has been vacant for years.
“A top priority of my administration is ensuring that every resident feels safe and that our community feels as though our public safety officials are accessible and qualified,” Smiley said in a statement.
Smiley said he interviewed Clements and asked him to stay on, but the chief “made the difficult decision to leave city service to pursue an exciting opportunity,” according to the announcement.
It wasn’t immediately made clear where Clements is going, but Smiley said he would stay on to advise the new mayor on choosing his replacement and that they would announce his “future endeavors” in the upcoming weeks. Clements, a highly decorated police officer, has worked for the department since 1985. He was appointed as the 37th police chief in 2012.
“I plan on taking a few days, but will still be here for some time,” Clements told 12 News. “I’m not going to lie, it’s tough walking away from the department and city I love.”
Smiley didn’t say whether Paré was interviewed or offered an opportunity to stay on, but Smiley’s aides said the commissioner would retire effective Jan. 2, the day of Smiley’s inauguration.
Paré, who previously served as superintendent of the R.I. State Police during the early 2000s, was hired in the city under former Mayor Angel Taveras after a working a few years at the gambling technology company IGT, formerly known as G-Tech.
On Tuesday, Taveras tweeted that he’s “forever grateful” Paré left the private sector “to come help a young, inexperienced PVD Mayor.”
“He oversaw first accreditation of PPD, appointment of Chief Clements, and lowest crime rate in decades (according to FBI). Thank you sir for your service,” Taveras tweeted.
Smiley spokesperson Patricia Socarras said they are in the process of finding a police chief and commissioner, and Smiley would serve as public safety commissioner in the interim.
“Our city has come a long way under the leadership of Commissioner Paré and Chief Clements, who together have served the people of Providence for over 40 years,” he said. “They have worked tirelessly and put Providence on the map for one of the best community policing strategies in the country. We thank them for their decades of service and wish them the best in their next endeavors.”
Outgoing Mayor Jorge Elorza lauded both Clements and Paré in a statement, calling them “excellent leaders with the highest integrity.”
“Providence is seeing record low rates of crime and an improved relationship between Providence police and the community, and our Fire Department has been innovative in its approaches to the mental and behavioral health challenges facing our residents in most need,” Elorza said. “I wish Commissioner Paré all the best in retirement, and I know Chief Clements will succeed in his future endeavors.”
In the Fire Department, Silva will become the first chief since the position became vacant in 2015. He joined the department in 2007 and served as president of the Providence Fire Fighters IAFF Local 799 from 2018 until he stepped down to become assistant chief in May.
Smiley also announced Clara Decerbo would continue serving as director of the Providence Emergency Management Agency and Joseph Migliaccio will continue to serve as director of telecommunications. More staff announcements are expected in the coming weeks.