NORTH SMITHFIELD – With 60 percent of the vote garnered once emergency, mail and polling place ballots were tallied, Paul Zwolenski has secured a victory for North Smithfield’s top office.
And the longtime councilor will take the role of town administrator for the next four years surrounded by friends and allies in town government, including one newcomer to North Smithfield politics.
“I’m very happy with the results,” Zwolenski told NRI NOW Tuesday night during a celebration at Gator’s Pub. “I think people recognize my experience and the years of contribution.”
Although a small number of provisional and drop box ballots still must be added to the early results, which must also still be certified by the Board of Elections, a strong lead made Zwolenski’s win over opponent Douglas Osier unlikely to overturn.
As of Wednesday morning, the former town planner had received 3,583 votes to Osier’s 2,321.
Osier, a 31-year-old one-term councilor, who works as manager of business intelligence for a health care provider, congratulated his opponent, conceding defeat Wednesday morning.
“”I want to thank everyone who supported me, voted for me or helped out with my campaign,” Osier said, specifically thanking his wife for help with his bid. “Obviously, I was hoping for a better outcome.”
It was a race framed as a choice between wisdom and experience, and new thoughts and ideas, where 66-year-old Zwolenski pointed to his reputation as a collaborator and listener, a theme that held true with the victor and his friends in government Tuesday night.
“I couldn’t be more happy for this guy,” said John Beauregard, a former Town Council president who won back his seat in the non-partisan race, coming in second among ten candidates for the five spots on the board.
Beauregard made national news in 2018 by leading an effort to boycott Nike products over the decision to feature NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He lost his bid for reelection that year following the controversial vote, and his latest campaign brought out both strong opinions among vocal detractors and endorsements from others he’s served with.
The candidate, who has called the decision a “mistake,” said he was “very surprised,” by results this week that found his name among the town’s highest vote getters.
“I was hoping to be in the top five, but I never thought I’d be in this position,” Beauregard said, noting that voters may have considered all he has done for the town in the past two years, from serving on volunteer boards and committees, to organizing fireworks displays at the high school graduation and Fourth of July.
“I think I’ve done a lot over the past two years,” he said. “I stayed involved in the community.”
He said voters may also have been swayed by his willingness to talk, and reaction to critics.
“I never got involved in the negativity,” he said.
He is one of two former councilors set to return to the board. Kimberly Alves, who served three terms on the Town Council in the early 2010s, was the town’s top vote-getter in 2020, securing 2,953 votes as of Wednesday morning.
Incumbent and former teacher Claire O’Hara defended her seat, as did current Council President Paul Vadenais.
And Stephen Corriveau, a baseball coach who has served as member of the town’s Economic Development Commission, won the fifth seat, edging out sixth place candidate Planning Board member Megan Staples with 2,149 votes to her 1,990.
“I’m honored,” Corriveau said of the fifth place win. “The town can expect nothing but excellence from me. I can’t wait to get to work.”
Incumbent Councilor Terri Bartimioli failed to secure a second term, coming in seventh among the ten contenders.
The victories were celebrated by a group of allies who emphasized their hope for a positive campaign despite vitriol on both the local and national level. O’Hara, Corriveau and Beauregard cheered along with Zwolenski and School Committee Chairman James Lombardi as results came in.
Lombardi, who ran unopposed in 2020, said he intends to keep working toward improving the schools and the town, and continue the fight against negativity.
“I can only do this with you and having positive relationships with my fellow elected officials,” Lombardi said. “Congratulations to all of those who won and took the very difficult decision to run.
For his part, Osier said he plans to stay involved.
“I’m looking forward to trying to help the town in any way possible,” Osier told NRI NOW Wednesday. “I’ve always believed that regardless of winning or losing I want to help the town. It”s going to be some other avenue.”
Zwolenski, a teacher at Johnson & Wales and town councilor since 2004, remained humble about the decisive win, noting he was out at the polling places, “pretty much every day,” during early voting.
“I think they thought about my commitment to the town,” he said of voters.
“I still have a lot more to learn, but I have the opportunity right now to step up and do the job,” he said. “Hopefully the residents will help me and I will listen.”