Former state official Smiley launches mayoral campaign

Brett Smiley formally launched his campaign for Mayor of Providence March 28, 2022. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

Brett Smiley, a former top ranking city and state official who left office a year ago today formally announced his candidacy for Providence mayor.

“I’m running for mayor because I love Providence,” Smiley said to applause from about 150 supporters during a lunch-hour appearance at the CIC co-working space on Dyer Street.

Smiley cited the city’s unfunded pension obligation, the state takeover of city schools, quality of life and crime as top issues that voters raised as he knocked on about 7,500 doors by the end of 2021.

“It’s these quality of life issues,” Smiley told reporters after his speech, during which he was surrounded by about 20 supporters.

“It’s snow removal, it’s filling potholes, it’s feeling like they don’t see a police officer frequently enough in their neighborhood, and it’s the state of their kids’ schools. These are the basics that people want us to address, and that’s what I’m going to focus on as mayor.”

“It’s going to require refocusing city staff and city funding on these quality of life issues,” he said.

Smiley, served as Providence’s Chief Operating Officer, former governor Gina Raimondo’s Chief of Staff then her Administration director. He resigned when she left Rhode Island to become U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Joe Biden.

Smiley almost immediately began running for mayor, then agreed to pay a $4,500 fine to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, which found that he solicited contributions from state vendors, based on a complaint from the Rhode Island Republican party.

Smiley was an early entrant in the 2014 race for mayor, but stepped aside along with then City Council President Michael Solomon to support then political newcomer Jorge Elorza, in a successful bid to block a comeback attempt by two-time mayor and convicted felon Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci.

“Eight years ago, I made the hardest decision in my professional life when I stepped aside to help ensure that our city did not take a giant step backwards by reelecting Buddy Cianci. But I never stopped pursuing my vision for what I know Providence can be.”

“At a time when too many seem to be just running for something, this is the only job I’ve ever thought about running for,” he said.

Others in the race for mayor include Solomon, City Council member Nirva LaFortune and Gonzalo Cuervo, former Chief of Staff and Deputy Secretary of State to Nellie Gorbea.

Incumbent Mayor Jorge Elorza, now serving his second term, is term-limited. He is not backing any of the candidates who have announced to date.

“At this point, it’s still early,” he told WPRO News on Monday. “I want to see what they propose. You know, what’s their vision and how they’re going to get it done, and we’ll see. If it was today, I honestly don’t know who, myself, I would vote for,” Elorza said.