June 4, 2013

The Magic/Man That Runs Providence

posted by Swearer Center

Sophie Purdom '16 is an Impact Providence intern working in the City of Providence Office of Sustainability.

“Welcome to City Hall!”

Hundred foot high domed ceilings and ornately carved and gold plated staircases beckoned us in. Under the arches, where seasoned municipal employees teetered by in high heels and tightly knotted ties, our group of brand new City Hall interns stuck out like a sore thumb. We were full of energy and hope and awe; we were here - this is where the magic that runs Providence happens!

After some classically awkward introductory conversations we were ushered through into the Mayor’s Office to meet The Man himself. Mayor Angel Taveras turned out to be not ancient and gold-plated like the building he operated but rather youthful, quick, and yes! - even funny. He was glad to welcome us to City Hall but open in confessing that unfortunately there was no magic that ran the city, rather hard work, expertise in departments, and innovation keep Providence thriving. He admitted that being Mayor was a more difficult position than he originally bargained for; perhaps we will determine the same about our positions over the summer! He was thrilled that we had committed our talents and focus to the endless work in Providence and hoped that we would find the challenge as rewarding as he did every day.

But being at City Hall is by no means all work and no play! In fact, we got a very unconventional tour from Taveras himself. He showed us a giant safe hidden behind a door and joked that it was regrettably empty. We were introduced to the enormous painting of Providence’s first foreign-born mayor that watched down on all the proceedings in the room; Taveras could have chosen any portrait to hang in his office but was drawn to this one because of his commitment to immigrants. The painting was restored by a class at RISD and, like all the decorations in his office, was privately donated. Taveras epitomizes his commitment to lowering the budget deficit in the decoration of his office, the cut he took to his personal paycheck, and his abstinence from frivolities that previous mayors indulged in. (The bar where Mayor Cianci poured drinks now chills a few cartons of Taveras’ orange juice.)

The tour over, Mayor Taveras left us with a few more words about his job. He marveled that he was lucky enough to be in a position where it could mean so much to his constituents that he just showed up. “What other job can make such a difference just by being there?” he questioned. Not to say that anyone in City Hall, the Mayor included, assumes their job is done just by showing up. As Taveras phrased it, running a city is a huge challenge and for people like him - an ex-lawyer, who was used to relying on his own prep and ability - it takes trust and delegation to the entire team to really get things done.

I think I can speak for all of the City Hall interns when I say that we are honored to be a part of the team and eager to make a difference here in Providence under the gold-plated dome this summer and for years to come.

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