After decades of public service, Trinque announces end to political career in Burrillville

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BURRILLVILLE – He’s been among the town’s key decision makers in projects over the past three decades, from the creation of Alumni Field, to the defeat of an effort to build a massive power plant. And it all started with concern over a missing bathroom door.

Burrillville Town Councilor Raymond Trinque has announced that after some 26 years of holding elected office, he will not be seeking re-election in 2024.

His political career began in 1995, when he was appointed the School Committee to take the place of member Jackie Blanchard, following her resignation. At the time, Trinque, a lifelong Pascoag resident, was the father of three young boys and involved in multiple parents’ groups, while also serving as a soccer coach.

“I was a PTO parent,” he told NRI NOW.

Trinque said his decision to get more involved in town government began with what seemed at the time to be a small observation: the absence of a door on the boys’ bathroom at Pascoag Grammar School.

“You could see into the bathroom,” he said, still sounding a hint incredulous all these years later.

Trinque attended a School Committee meeting to share the observation, and was told that a door could not be put up for safety reasons – despite the fact that there was one on the girls’ bathroom.

“I demanded they put a door on the bathroom,” he said of the boys’ facilities. Eventually, he notes, “They did.”

Trinque lost a bid for re-election to the School Committee in 1996. But he ran again and was elected in 1998 – and ending up serving on the board for more than 18 years.

He recalls an effort to build a playground at Levy Elementary School by what was, at the time, a nearly all-male PTO. The successful campaign led to a long-standing tradition of spaghetti suppers at the school that raised some $5,000 to $7,000 annually for 18 years.

“It ended up paying for field trips, and items for classrooms,” Trinque said. “It was a community thing.”

Trinque notes that when he started his time on the Burrillville School Committee, the board had just five members, and was regularly having trouble getting a quorum. In response, the town passed a charter change that added two more members.

“It became much more efficient when they went to seven,” he said of the board.

Trinque would serve first as a member of the committee, then vice chairman and then chairman, overseeing many district projects including a $3.2 million renovation of Levy Ice Rink, and later, construction of Alumni Field.

“It was just a vacant lot,” Trinque said of the space where the field now sits.

Another accomplishment that stands out from his time serving the school district came as town leaders began a debate on whether or not elected officials in Burrillville should continue to receive health insurance.

“It had become very expensive,” he said of his position at the time.

Trinque made a presentation on the controversial issue before the Town Council.

“It was contentious,” he said. “In the end, the Town Council decided to change it. It’s been that way ever since.”

The change, he noted, saved the town some $10,000 to $12,000 annually per member.

“In the end, I think the right thing was done, and it saved a lot of money,” he said.

As his three sons – Patrick, Shawn and Timothy – made their way through Burrillville schools, Trinque’s time on the committee continued, with major renovations of both the high school and Callahan Elementary School.

“I just wanted to have an effect on their education, and to participate,” he said, noting that as time passed, all three of his sons graduated and went on to college.

“My kids were all out of school,” said Trinque. “I looked around and said, ‘what am I still doing here?’ I left.”

Soon after he left the school board, Trinque was appointed to serve on the sewer commission. He ran for the Town Council in 2012, but came in fifth with just four members being elected that year. He was later appointed to complete the term of Wallace Lees after his death in 2014.

It wasn’t long after the appointment that a Chicago-based energy company submitted plans to build the largest power plant in the state of Rhode Island in the woods of Burrillville.

“Obviously, the power plant was a huge thing,” Trinque said. “I tried to be a strong opponent.”

Trinque noted that as part of the project, energy business Invenergy wanted to utilize a contaminated and closed well in Pascoag to make steam for their new plant. As a village resident who had lived through the period where residents drank water from that well – before it was discovered that it had been contaminated with MBTE from a nearby gas station – Trinque was vehemently opposed.

“We had more brain tumors in Pascoag in that short period of time than we ever had,” he said, adding of Invenergy’s proposal, “It was absolutely a ridiculous thing.”

“This was a brain tumor cluster,” said Trinque, noting that his own wife survived treatment for a brain tumor. “There were a lot of other illnesses too.”

To fight the well-funded energy company, the Town Council signed a tax agreement with Invenergy – and used the $2 million payments to finance a legal battle against the company.

“Invenergy severely misjudged the will of the town,” Trinque said, recalling dozens of meetings that packed auditoriums and hundreds of lawn signs in opposition to the project erected across town. “They just never considered how serious we were.”

“There were thousands of people who did something,” Trinque added of the eventual defeat of the project. “That was an example of how the little guy can win.”

An Army veteran, around nine years ago Trinque became commander of Berard Desjarlais American Legion Post 88. He has also served as moderator for Pascoag Fire District and the Pascoag Utility District, positions he’s held for some 25 years.

He notes that it hasn’t all been easy, recalling a long ago effort to remove him from the School Committee by opponents who said his position was a conflict because he served as announcer at high school hockey games. The job came with a $35 stipend, which he would donate back to town sports programs.

“I never took a penny,” he said. “I was about the blue and white.”

“You get involved and you take it personally,” he said.

Still, “There was a lot more good, a lot more success, than failure,” he said of his time. “It always felt relevant.”

He credits his success as an elected official with a commitment to studying each issue and being prepared. As a committee member, he notes he would sometimes spend a day in a public school, even riding the bus for the full experience.

“The kids would be looking at me like, ‘what is this guy doing?'” he said with a laugh. Similarly, as a councilor, Trinque notes he’s spent days riding around with staff from the Department of Public Works. “I always tried to get involved and know what I was doing.”

The second secret to successful government service, he said, is to always appreciate and value those who work for you, pointing to the hiring and management of superintendents and town managers.

“That’s your job as an elected official,” Trinque said.

But now, he wants to step away from tasks such as educating students and setting municipal budgets to focus on doing more for local veterans.

“I’m 65,” he said. “I love to golf, and my heart is really with the veterans. There’s a lot more that can be done here if I’m not at six meetings a week.”

Of his time serving in town government, he said, “we’ve done some good things along the way.”

“Financially, we’re in great shape,” said Trinque, while pointing to other successes, such as current projects to replace the bike park, build another football field and create more senior housing. Plus, he added, “the happiest woman in America is my wife.”

In all, Trinque notes he’s served in town government for more than 26 years.

“You can’t do that without the people,” he said “The voters have been very generous to me.”

Trinque noted that the board meetings are just a small part of the work of elected government.

“It’s the things you do throughout the year for people,” he said. He noted the work can be, “as small as getting a street sign, or as large as stopping a power plant.”

“That’s one of the reasons it’s time for me to go,” he said. “I want to concentrate on veterans’ activities.”

The active Burrillville Legion post has grown under his leadership, helping more than 200 local veterans receive benefits in past three years. Trinque said his future goals include more involvement on the state level, helping to address issues such as homelessness and suicide, and recruiting younger members. The post has organized drives to send supplies to veterans in other areas following natural disasters, and recently distributed 70 new coats locally to those in need thanks to a collaboration with businesses and other organizations.

Trinque said he also hopes to increase efforts to help those who have served to get the benefits they deserve.

“You don’t have to be hero to get benefits. You simply have to serve,” said Trinque. “That’s something we’re going to try to expand even more.”

As he wraps up the final term in a long political career with plans to step aside in November, Trinque has a message for all those who have supported him.

“I want to thank them for that over the years,” he said. “Thank you for believing in me. I tried to give your money’s worth every time.”

“Maybe I’ll miss it a little,” he added of elected service. “You never know.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your service, Ray. It has been a pleasure serving with you on Town Council. While we did not always agree on every issue, I appreciated your willingness to talk, debate and always work for what you thought was best for Burrillville.

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