Married: to Dana Warren Gee, small business owner for 28 years.
Family: 7 children; Zing (13), Griffin (10) and Hope (10) at home; Annelisa (45), Sarah (42), Alexander (37) and Christina (35); 7 grandchildren (6 months – 21).
Education: Washington and Lee University, B.S. 1965.
Military Service: U.S. Navy Lieutenant, Vietnam Destroyer Duty; Instructor, Officer Indoctrination School, Newport, RI.
Professional: IBM Corp. Marketing Rep., Data Processing Division, 1970 – 1976; Data Resources, Founder & Principal, 1976 – present (small business owner).
Elected Offices: East Greenwich Fire Commissioner 2008 – 2013 (when Fire District consolidated with town); East Greenwich Town Council Member 2010 – present.
Community Involvement: Operation Clapboard; Newport Gas Light Proposal, Author & Co-fundraiser; Norman Bird Sanctuary; Historic Hill PAC; Power Lunch; Dorcas Place, Tutor and Mentor; East Bay School to Career Partnership Council, Chair; East Bay Literacy; East Providence Prevention Coalition, Chair; Senior Project Judge, Barrington & East Greenwich; Providence InTown YMCA, Chair; East Providence Community Emergency Response Team, Member; East Greenwich Citizens Who Care/Substance Abuse Task Force; Main Street Association of East Greenwich.
Reason for Running: In an economic and political climate filled with many unknowns, you deserve enlightened leadership in order to reduce RI’s heavy tax burdens. For our state to right itself, your legislature has to work selflessly toward a shared goal of fiscal prudence. I have been a Rhode Islander for 49 years, 44 of them as a businessman. I’ve demonstrated a record of accomplishments, leadership and contributions to our community. Independent-minded, I am not afraid to make tough decisions for the collective good of us taxpayers. You deserve an honest, credible voice in the future of this state.
I have lived in Rhode Island since 1965, when I graduated from the U.S. Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport and was assigned to a Newport-based destroyer. I remember when getting to Jamestown meant taking the ferry, paying from the coupon book, and when the Mt. Hope Bridge toll was paid with ten cent toll tickets.
I understand how change can make people uncomfortable, and mostly I get being overtaxed at every corner, an example being the Sakonnet River bridge. What’s next? The Providence viaduct? I see the frustrations of a taxpayer who tries to communicate with our General Assembly legislators and “leaders” about tax relief and reform measures, only to be stonewalled.
My desire to learn and serve drove me to successfully run for fire commissioner in 2008 to fill a seat also being sought by a retired fire fighter. In 2010, I successfully ran for town council, concurrent with my fire district position, and witnessed the duplication of effort and systems performed by both bodies, often without the knowledge of the other. I wondered why we needed two separate municipalities to run one town?
Last year, with the help of voters and our firefighters, we achieved the consolidation of the town’s fire district into the town, a two hundred year (plus) first — saving taxpayers money through efficiencies and elimination of duplicate services. We’ve shown it can be done locally, and I think we could do it on a larger scale, with your help.
My seven years as a marketing rep for IBM gave me the opportunity to work with a range of successful business owners and top level executives, and focus on how well-managed companies operate. From textiles to health, welfare and pension funds, to management consultants and wholesale drug distributors, steel extruders and converters, machinery manufacturing, beer distribution, printing and more, I was able to help them grow with IBM solutions.
After seeing how good businesses thrive, I started my own small one without any help from the government — in fact, despite it — in a very competitive industry and rocky economy. I did not have any of the special deals our government now thinks are needed to stimulate business. Entrepreneurs know the economy can be volatile, but by adjusting spending and trimming expenses, they are trained to weather the storm. Increase hiring when demand is growing, and hold off when the outlook is bleak. We can help businesses today, by keeping government out of every small detail of running one. We need more business people in our legislature who know the basics — not the special deals and study groups currently used to seek solutions.
A $500 yearly corporate tax and onerous inventory taxes stifle a small company. Our state has become business-unfriendly. Failure to challenge the status quo has meant wanton increases in a variety of taxes and mandates. We need to champion fiscal prudence to reverse this trend.
As a former Naval officer, I’ve learned leadership, discipline, and management skills. I believe in “duty, honor, and country” as a fundamental citizen credo.
My naval service gave me an inside track in dealing with military commands and contractors throughout New England. I came to see how important our defense-related businesses are to my business, and, to our economy. I’m convinced that organizations like the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance hold a key to uncovering new opportunities, and are critical to supporting our defense-related and private industries. The military has long been one of our state’s biggest employers and we are only scratching the surface of our potential for aqua-based business. The Navy began here, we need to capitalize on our greatest asset, our coastline, without damaging our environment.
I have made it an on-going effort to contribute to my community. I’ve been a Junior Achievement classroom instructor, bringing real world experiences into the study of basic economics. I’ve taught reading fundamentals to learning challenged adults. I’ve mentored young men who’ve dug a hole for themselves. However, I think we need to address challenges in a collaborative way, with a competitive model encouraging creativity and resourcefulness.
I’ve long been involved with school-to-career — an early effort to try to help students understand the importance of what they are learning as it relates to their skill sets and what job providers need from potential workers. As a member of the East Bay School to Career Partnership Council, I was part of a group which implemented the Senior Project as a graduation objective, making Barrington the model for all other Rhode Island communities.
In East Providence, I helped start a program I’d worked with in Providence Schools — the Power Lunch program. We recruited business people to spend an hour reading with elementary school children during lunch. Even with that short hour, we introduced lots of kids to the fun and joy of reading, producing small but measurable gains in their reading skills.
As a father of school-age children, I know what a good education means, and the critical importance of making our current system better. I understand how important it is to have a budget that forces many of us to make spending choices. The day in and day out challenge — mental, physical and financial — of raising a family is something I embrace wholeheartedly. Our kids are our future, and we need to make RI a better place for them to excel!