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President Robert J. Sylvia has resigned from the Town Council, according to a press release today from the Town of Middletown.
Citing “personal reasons” and the need to spend more time with his family, Sylvia submitted a one-page letter outlining his decision this morning.
A member of the Town Council for 13 plus years, Sylvia was the council president the last seven. Before that, he was chairman of the town’s Personnel Committee.
“During these 19 years, I have worked alongside amazing people – Town Administrator Shawn Brown and his staff, council members, our solicitors, district and school leaders, business owners, volunteers, faith groups and friends and neighbors – all working to make our community a better place to live, work and play,” Sylvia wrote.
Sylvia went onto personally thank Town Clerk Wendy J.W. Marshall, Deputy Town Clerk Karin Clancey and most importantly, his wife Barbara.
“I want to thank my wife for standing by my side during this endeavor and being the person, I could always depend on,” Sylvia wrote. “This I know has been a long road for her as well.”
Speaking with the town later this morning, Matt Sheley, Public Affairs Officers for the Town of Middletown, writes in the press release writes that Sylvia expanded on his decision, saying the timing seemed right for him to move on. He said he looked forward to having more time for family, friends, travel, golf, and other experiences.
“Let’s face it, the town is in good shape,” Sylvia said. “Why not leave on a high note? We’ve accomplished so much over the years that, it just makes sense right now. Look at what happened with COVID(-19). When other communities were struggling and totally shut down, we found ways to do more for our residents at the beach and gave them their beach back. That’s the kind of things I’ll look back at fondly.”
He added that helping residents solving problems big and small was something he would miss.
“I want to thank all the people who’ve supported me over the years and I can go out undefeated,” Sylvia said, laughing. “When it comes down to it, one of the things I’m most proud of is how we have a solvent town now, one where a problem doesn’t equal a crisis. It wasn’t always that way. There were times 20 years ago when we struggled to make payroll.
“We had a game plan and we stuck to it and I don’t think the town has an equal in the state of Rhode Island. Our retirement buckets are filled, we’re able to keep our budget moving forward and we’ve maintained our discipline over the years while creating a war memorial, new recreational fields, acquiring open space, the Navy Lodge, helping secure the $10 million bond for the school, new police headquarters and new fire headquarters. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and continue to move forward long term.”
According to the press release, local leaders said they understood the move and need for Sylvia to turn the page on this chapter of his life. A high-ranking executive with the Hudson Lock Company in Hudson, Massachusetts, it was not uncommon for Sylvia to be traveling and busy with his day job and arrive in town at night to oversee a meeting.
Learning of the news this morning, council Vice President Paul M. Rodrigues said he had one word he was feeling to describe the departure of this friend from the council – sad.
“I’m sad, that’s the best way to describe it,” Rodrigues said. “I’ve been honored to serve with Bob all these years and to accomplish so much, but you have to do what’s best for you and your family. He’s helped put the town in a great position and I was honored to work together with him.”
The list of accomplishments for the town under Sylvia’s lead is long. Holding the line on taxes in the last four years, the town has continued to make forward progress with open space preservation, building improvements and recreational opportunities.
“Middletown is a fantastic place to live, but that doesn’t happen by mistake,” Sylvia said. “It takes a lot of hard work, a lot of work. Some people think the council presidency is just a ceremonial job, but I can assure you I’ve never looked at it that way.
“You need to work hard in this position and I’m proud of the relationships and the bonds we’ve built over the years. Like with our federal delegation, when we needed help to improve our corporate park or assistance with resiliency down at our beaches or to bury utility lines, they were there and that’s all because of relationships.”
The council is slated to meet tonight at 6 to tackle unfinished items from the group’s agenda Monday night. To view and participate in that meeting, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88932741267 online.
Then, at the council’s next regular meeting on April 5, a new president is expected to be selected by the remaining six members of the council, per the rules of the town charter. From there, the remaining six are expected to determine how to nominate names of people to fill the remainder of Sylvia’s term, another requirement of the town charter.
This morning, there was no talk among local officials about what was next for the council, though. Everything was focused on Sylvia and giving him the appropriate send off.
“Bob was all about Middletown and what’s right for our taxpayers,” Rodrigues said. “He grew up here and spent more of his adult years here and his passion was to make Middletown a better place. Some people might not agree with Bob all the time and that’s fine, but everything he did was to make this a better place.
“Middletown will be fine when Bob leaves, that’s the beauty of having seasoned councilors running the town. But I am going to say, Middletown isn’t going to be better because we lost one of our greatest supporters and advocates. He definitely helped make Middletown a very desirable place.”
The Town of Middletown provided Sylvia’s full resignation letter;
FROM: Council President – Robert J. Sylvia
DATE: March 18, 2021
TO: Wendy Marshall – Town Clerk
Dear Ms. Wendy Marshall – Town Clerk:
It is with regret, and for personal reasons, that I am reluctantly writing to inform you of my decision to resign my elected position as a member of the Middletown Town Council, effective immediately.
I have proudly served the Town of Middletown for more than 13 years as a member of the Council, and the last 7 years as the Council President. Prior to that I served 6 years as the Chair of the Personnel Committee. During these 19 years, I have worked alongside amazing people — Town Administrator Shawn Brown and his staff, council members, our solicitors, district and school leaders, business owners, volunteers, faith groups and friends and neighbors — all working to make our community a better place to live, work and play. I would like to especially recognize you Ms. Marshall, and your Deputy Clerk Karen Clancy. You both are to be commended for your tireless dedication to our Town, which I personally thank you for.
Lastly, I want to thank my wife for standing by my side during this endeavor and being the person, I could always depend on. This I know has been a long road for her as well.
Robert J. Sylvia – Council President