We’ve all heard the phrase above and we usually associate it with someone in the Mafia or the Underworld, someone who’s busily at work in nefarious activity, someone who skirts legitimate channels.
That’s not how Representative Patricia Serpa, District 27, understands the phrase. She says she associates it with an unreported aspect of her job, as when a constituent calls her, desperate to know how he or she can help an addicted relative and Serpa gives the caller the name of an expert who can advise, or when she suggests to another where he or she can go for help in a domestic abuse situation.
“That’s when ‘I know a guy’ can be critical,” she says.
Her support system is a network of people she has established over the ten year period she has served in the legislature. She knows where and how to direct people, to cut out the confusion such individuals in crisis face.
Serpa doesn’t worry about her recent failing grade assigned her by what she calls the ‘ultra-conservative group,’ Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. She believes townspeople see her as fighting for them, supporting their hard-working, conservative-leaning principles.
She believes they appreciate her hands-on involvement in so many areas. And she credits her years as teacher (she retired after twenty-eight years) and more years as school counselor that allow her to work successfully with ‘the bad boys’ of the General Assembly.
Years ago, Pat was a teacher at John F. Horgan Elementary School, and at the end of twenty-eight years, she went on to a two-day-a-week guidance counselor position at Norwood Elementary School in Cranston. Following that, she became part-time Admissions Officer at Johnson and Wales University for another fifteen years.
Along the way, she served on the West Warwick School Committee for six years.
When asked how she got into the General Assembly, she said former House of Representative from district 27, Norman Landroche suggested she replace him at the end of his term. He believed in Serpa, whereas she feared the prospect of serving ‘with all those men and all those lawyers.’
She needn’t have worried. She’s risen to the challenge over many years.
This daughter of Constance and Adolph Petrarca grew up in Crompton, on Robinson Way, went to St. James church and St. James School, and then went on to high school at St. Xavier. Because she felt isolated and ‘socially inept’ as a result of her girls-only secondary school experience, she’s a firm proponent of co-ed schooling.
Her social awkwardness didn’t persist, however: In 1985, she married former Providence firefighter, Joseph Serpa, and she has a grown son from a previous marriage.
Her proudest achievements while in the House? Her advocacy of those affected with mental health issues and her facilitation of small business concerns. During the 2015 session, Serpa sponsored a law providing coverage for seven days of residential/inpatient services for opioid treatment and in 2014, the General Assembly passed a bill she sponsored, requiring insurers to provide coverage for the treatment of mental health and substance abuse disorders under the same terms and conditions as coverage provided for other illnesses and diseases.
She chaired the House Committee on Small Business at a point when it passed a critical utilities tax relief bill, reining in utilities, gas, fuel, etc., and she currently chairs the House Oversight Committee, committed to improving state government efficiency and accountability.
All of which brought up the following: How to insure a debacle like 38 Studios never happens again.
When asked how a loan to Curt Schilling’s improbable video game venture made it past the legislature, Serpa answered: “We voted on a loan guarantee we were told would be available to multiple businesses for their improvement and growth. We were never told it was for one business.”
“I wish leaders in place at the time had told us the whole truth.” Instead they ‘were deceitful,’ Serpa said.
She feels all legislators now bear the brunt of that deceit.
In assigning responsibility for wrong-doing, Serpa clearly differentiates herself from nefarious others she mentioned at the outset of our interview…
You know—the usual ones who say ‘I know a guy.’
***Got someone you’d like to see up in lights? Send their name, contact info, and why you think they’d be good candidate to email@example.com with “Kent County People” in subject line. Your nominee doesn’t need to be current residents..he/she should exhibit a strong connection to West Warwick/Coventry.
West Warwick native, Colleen Kelly Mellor (firstname.lastname@example.org), is a motivational speaker and freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Wall St. Journal, Scripps-Howard, and many regional newspapers. She is author to the children’s books Grandpa and the Truck (grandpaandthetruck.com) and is regular commentator in the Providence Journal. She currently completes “The Asheville Experiment,” the story of her and her husband’s nine year life in one of America’s trendiest little retirement towns—a cautionary tale for all those who consider a move. In this book, she tells what went wrong and why they returned to live, full time in Rhode Island. Her website is colleenkellymellor.com