PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Mayor Brett Smiley outlined his vision for the Capital City in his public inauguration Monday.
Smiley, the city’s 39th mayor, named improving city services, Providence schools, and public safety as his focus for the next four years. Smiley’s husband, Jim DeRentis, is the first ever First Gentleman in the city.
In his inaugural address, the mayor said Providence would use community policing to restore a sense of safety on city streets.
“I want every neighbor to know the officers protecting their neighborhoods by name,” Smiley said. “Officers will be visible within the community walking the beat or on their bicycles, and we will stop at nothing to get illegal guns off of the street and prevent violent crimes.”
The administration will also continue the campaign to remove illegal ATVs and motorcycles from the streets, address noise pollution, and rehab blighted properties, according to Smiley.
Watch: Brett Smiley sworn in as Providence’s 39th mayor (Story continues below video.)
The Illinois native cited mental health, overdose death prevention, and substance abuse as key focuses of their public safety vision.
“Our approach to public safety will be improved by integrating behavioral health supports and
providing kids employment, recreation and education as tools to prevent crime,” Smiley said.
Smiley plans to name a new police chief in the coming weeks, after Chief Col. Hugh Clements decided to step down from his position. Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré is also leaving his post.
Smiley also said his administration is preparing to take back control of Providence schools from the state when the first term of the state takeover ends in 2024. When asked if he would attempt to regain control of the school district before then, Smiley said he doesn’t plan to.
“I think we’re going to need that much time to be prepared but I’m starting today with the assumption that the turnaround is coming to a close and that we need to be ready to take them back,” Smiley said.
The mayor’s “education listening session” is slated for Saturday where community members are invited to discuss their concerns with Providence schools.
Smiley said their mission to improve city services will include fixing potholes, repairing sidewalks, implementing green infrastructure, and revamp snow plowing and street cleaning.
“I know we can fix potholes and repair our sidewalks the right way, the first time,” Smiley said.
Smiley also vowed to increase the number of housing units in every neighborhood.
“Providing affordable housing is a pivotal part of being a well-run city,” Smiley said. “It’s how we can protect the integrity of our neighborhoods, support our local economy in an equitable way and bring in new business.”
The administration will use a housing-first strategy, providing safe and accessible housing options with wrap-around services like health care and childcare, according to Smiley.
“Every investment in housing helps keep generations of Providence families here, improves
economic mobility, and welcomes new residents to fall in love with this incredible city.”
Gov. Dan McKee, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressman David Cicilline were all in attendance for Smiley’s inaugural address.
Steph Machado contributed to this report.