McKee taps Rodio to lead transition as he prepares to take over from Raimondo

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Lt. Gov. Dan McKee is moving forward with preparations to take over as governor in the coming weeks.

McKee is set to ascend to the state’s top job later this winter after Gov. Gina Raimondo was appointed Thursday night as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for commerce secretary. Raimondo is expected to remain in office until she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Joseph Rodio Jr., who has been legal counsel to the lieutenant governor’s office for most of McKee’s two terms, will be serving as chair of the McKee transition committee, according to transition spokesperson Mike Trainor. The pair have known each other since Rodio was a young lawyer doing outside legal work for Cumberland while McKee was still the town’s mayor.

Rodio, 38, is an attorney at the law firm Rodio & Ursillo Ltd., with a practice focused on public pensions and other municipal issues, according to his biography. He is a graduate of Penn State and Northeastern University School of Law. (His father, the late Joseph J. Rodio Sr., was a prominent Rhode Island attorney who died in 2015.)

McKee — who is in quarantine through the end of the day Tuesday after a coronavirus exposure — spent the weekend holding phone calls and Zoom briefings with state officials and lawmakers, including a one-hour briefing from Health Department Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott about the state’s coronavirus response, Trainor said.

He is also preparing to name a budget advisory committee that will help him craft a tax-and-spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1; the document is due to the General Assembly by early March. Experts have estimated Rhode Island is facing a deficit of anywhere from $300 million to $500 million, though there is considerable uncertainty around those numbers.

Raimondo’s office has said little about the transition so far, and has not announced any plans for joint appearances with McKee. The two Democrats, both elected in 2014, have had a chilly relationship throughout their time in office that worsened in the past year as Raimondo largely ignored McKee during the pandemic and he began to publicly criticize her business relief policies.

Her office has not responded to a question about when the pair will hold their first joint event.

House Speaker Joe Shekarchi and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio “had planned to meet in person with Lt. Governor McKee yesterday, but due to his quarantine, they had an hour-long three-way phone conversation instead,” their offices said in a joint statement.

The three Democrats “pledged to work together in a smooth transition,” the statement continued. “The COVID crisis was the primary topic discussed, including the distribution of the vaccine, rebuilding the economy and helping small businesses.”

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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