Election Day for incumbent Ward 7 Councilman Charles Donovan Jr. and his Democratic challenger Kathleen Usler is just three weeks away.
Tuesday, Sept. 9 is primary day, and with neither a Republican nor independent running for the seat, the primary will determine who is the next councilperson.
Donovan, 44, has acted as councilman for Ward 7 for 14 years, working with constituents to address their issues and he wants to carry on. His opponent is known in the ward and is looking to bring her ideas to city government.
In a recent interview, Donovan said, “I have been and I will be motivated to help this city. I know I don’t have all the answers, but as councilman I have always believed my number one priority is being a listener and facilitator for the people. Communication and dialogue play key roles in making sure things get done well and in a timely fashion. I have definitely become better at this over time and I plan to continue being better for my constituents if I am re-elected.”
Usler, 38, a stay-at-home, is a mother of four.
She has spent her life in Ward 7. She has been highly active in the community, most recently with the PTA for Greenwood Elementary. For the past two years she has served as president. She has also orchestrated and participated in coat and food drives throughout the city.
Now she wants to do more as a councilwoman.
“I have always felt Ward 7 has needed an active voice who was willing to work as the liaison between the city and its people. I want to be somebody the community can talk to, reach out to someone they feel comfortable with, not someone they have to go over,” she said.
Donovan grew up in Warwick as well. He attended the University of Rhode Island and received a degree in Political Science. For the past 10 years he has worked as a policy analyst for the Narragansett Bay Commission and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.
Donovan said, “This city has such an opportunity to shine. Warwick is a diamond in the rough. I am proud of this city.”
As councilman, he has worked closely in the Apponaug circular project. As construction has begun earlier this summer, he is happy to see the project finally come together.
It is going to be a great addition to the area. There has been a lot of time and effort into this project and I would like to be able to stay as a councilman throughout its progress,” Donovan said. “When businesses in that area are thriving and I can drive through such a new and beautiful Apponaug, it is going to be great knowing I had a part in that.”
As part of her community work, Ulser worked on landscaping at Greenwood School and helped raise enough money to purchase tech carts for every classroom at to ensure the teachers had the equipment necessary to uphold and exceed the common core standards. She also holds a neighborhood Halloween Party that nearly 200 people attend.
Usler, last year, shaved her head to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
“I shaved my head for pediatric cancer; there isn’t anything I’m not going to do for a cause I believe in. I was bald,” she said. “I can not be sold, bought or talked out of what I believe in. I believe in my community, I believe in Warwick. I want them to believe in me and that they can trust me to do what is best for them.”
Donovan found himself in the news last year when he was pulled over for drunk driving and police found a semi-automatic gun in his car. The charges were dropped and he paid the fine and court fees and publicly apologized.
He said he has no problem discussing the issue because he has nothing to hide.
“I am happy it is behind me,” Donovan said. “I am lucky to live in a city that allows for forgiveness and redemption. I have been honored to have this second chance. I am not proud of what happened, but I want to take it as a turning point in my life. When you fall, you have to pick yourself up and move in a more positive direction, and that has been what I am doing and will continue to do.”
If re-elected, Donovan aims to make sure the Apponaug project, which is slated for completion in late fall 2017, goes quickly and smoothly. He recently docketed legislation that would require monthly updates to businesses and residents about the progress of Apponaug’s circular project.
He would like to see Warwick invest in more parks or recreational sites to make the city more parent- and child-friendly. He also wants to improve public safety, adding stoplights and signs, fixing potholes and giving the people a city to feel safe in. During his time as councilman, he worked closely with the schools to ensure they had safe pickup and drop-off sites for students.
Usler wants to see more community involvement, especially throughout Ward 7.
“Sometimes your community can be left behind in the hustle and bustle of your own life,” Usler said. “But I really care about my neighbors and the people of this ward. Warwick is our little piece of the world. I want to motivate people to be more involved in our community, our city, and our government. I want to inspire others to get involved.”
Similarly, Donovan wants to spotlight citizens of Warwick exceeding in their fields or just helping out the community by starting the Warwick Heritage Institute, a place Warwick can show off the work of its citizens.
“Sometimes we forget how great of a place we live in. We are a tight-knit community and we should showcase some of the more positive things happening in Warwick.”
He wants to continue to be a taxpayers’ advocate making sure “every penny is properly spent.”
Donovan said, “My job is to be a representative for my constituents to voice and hopefully find solutions to their concerns. I want to be able to continue doing that, making sure Warwick is a place people love to live.”
A self-claimed people person, Usler said she is looking to reach out to people on a larger scale as councilwoman.
“I am a people person and I have always been trying to solve problems in this community, not just to get it out of the way, but to actually help people to see their lives improve,” she said.
There is no animosity between the candidates, and Usler said that running against Donovan is nothing personal.
She said, “Things need a little shaking up in Warwick. I am a supporter of term limits, even for myself going forward. It is not productive to remain stagnant. This is a job I can do and do well.”
Both candidates have been walking door to door through the ward. Although both are optimistic going into the primary, Donovan and Usler said they would be taking their campaigns seriously until the last minute. After the primary, the winning candidate will go unopposed in the election. To reach out to candidates, you can email Dovovan at firstname.lastname@example.org and Usler at email@example.com.