PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence City Councilor Rachel Miller is poised to become the next council president after amassing support from a majority of the 15 councilors expected to be elected this fall.
Miller confirmed she called a Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday evening, where she said 10 Democratic nominees for City Council agreed to support her for president.
The party caucus was not open to the public, but Miller provided a copy of a letter of intent signed by 10 Democrats who agreed to support the new leadership team: Susan Anderbois, Helen Anthony, Mary Kay Harris, James Taylor, Justin Roias, Juan Pichardo, Miguel Sanchez, Ana Vargas, Oscar Vargas and Miller.
In addition to Miller, the 10 members supported Councilman James Taylor as majority leader, Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris as deputy majority leader, and Juan Pichardo as president pro tempore.
The party caucus is not the official vote for council president, and several of the party members supporting Miller still face challengers in the general election. But Democrats are widely favored to win the seats.
The caucus vote indicates Miller has the support to win the presidency during the official election in January, as long as she can keep the group together.
“We represent the broad diversity and geography of the city of Providence,” Miller told 12 News on Tuesday. “We’re building a team that everyone will have a voice in.”
Miller, a 43-year-old progressive who represents Federal Hill and the West End, was first elected to represent Ward 13 in 2018. She faces no opponents in her re-election bid this year, and will be eligible to run for a third term in 2026.
In her day job, Miller works in communications for Building Futures, a nonprofit that provides apprenticeship and job training programs. She has lived in Providence since 2003, helping to form the local chapter of the Working Families Party, and has also worked with activist groups such as Jobs for Justice and Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE).
Miller noted that if formally elected, she would be the first council president from the LGBTQ+ community. (She identifies as queer and bisexual.)
Miller is not a member of the current leadership team under Council President John Igliozzi, a moderate who is term-limited and will be leaving office in January.
Still, she frequently votes with Igliozzi’s team, while also often joining with the more progressive wing of the City Council. All 15 current council members are Democrats.
“I have broad experience of bringing people together,” Miller said, adding she has a “strong working relationship” with Taylor, the current majority leader under Igliozzi who had previously considered seeking the presidency.
Taylor, a moderate Democrat, confirmed he dropped his bid to instead support Miller for president, and said after last Tuesday’s primary he realized he would not have the votes to become president himself.
“You got to know when to fold them,” Taylor said. “I didn’t have a path to get to the presidency. … I think Rachel will be great president.”
Several of Igliozzi’s other allies are leaving the council due to term limits, including Councilors Nicholas Narducci, Carmen Castillo and Michael Correia. (David Salvatore is also term-limited, but not on Igliozzi’s team.)
Between the term-limited councilors and two others that chose not to run for re-election, there were seven open seats without incumbents on the council. The race for council president was already forming before the primary even happened, but solidified in the past week after the Democratic nominees were elected and two races were recounted.
In addition to Taylor, other names that were floated as possibilities for council president include Pedro Espinal and Jo-Ann Ryan. (Neither Espinal nor Ryan could be reached Tuesday.)
With a slew of fresh faces, the council is likely to return to a female majority, pending any upsets in the general election, and will be majority people of color.
Miller said she has reached out to Brett Smiley, who is projected to be the next mayor of Providence after winning last week’s Democratic primary. (Smiley has no opponents in the general election.)
Miller had endorsed another candidate, Gonzalo Cuervo, in the race. Cuervo finished second behind Smiley.
“I think that we see eye-to-eye on wanting to move Providence forward,” Miller said of Smiley. “One of the things that I’ve been emphasizing is that we’re not going to agree on every single issue. But we’re going to disagree with integrity and be able to have an open dialogue.”
Rent stabilization, for example, is one issue that Miller has supported but Smiley opposes.
It’s not yet clear whom Miller would pick to chair the powerful Finance Committee, which vets the city budget and other spending of taxpayer dollars. Councilwoman Helen Anthony, who is supporting Miller, is on the committee now, while Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan is the current chairperson.