The Newport City Council was divided, but Jeanne-Marie Napolitano had already secured the support of a slim majority going into Thursday’s meeting.

A council veteran, Napolitano was first elected in 1991. She has served two previous terms as mayor from 2008 until 2010, and again from 2014 to 2016.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Napolitano said her first priority as mayor will be responding to the rising COVID-19 numbers in Newport.

“At this point, we’ve really had our challenges in Newport — in particular with the gas outage and then the COVID,” Napolitano said. “There’s going to be some things that we really need to move on.”

Napolitano publicly opposed the development moratorium that the Newport City Council imposed in the city’s North End in 2019. Her support from the majority of the new council suggests a greater openness toward future development, she said.

“Newport basically is built-out. There’s very few places in the other two wards — second and third ward — where they could really do something from scratch,” Napolitano said.

The Newport City Council consists of seven members, including four at-large councilors and three representatives of the city's different wards. Every two years, the Council selects one of the at-large councilors to serve as mayor.

Current Mayor Jamie Bova sought the position again, and had the support of two other council members. Before the 4-3 vote, Bova expressed disappointment that Napolitano had lined up votes in advance of the meeting.

“It implies that a decision will be made by a public body without anyone knowing the reasons behind it,” Bova said. “This year, I had hoped that we would use a different model, based on the transparent decision-making process that the Council had fostered over the past two years.”

While split over the position of mayor, the incoming City Council unanimously agreed Thursday evening that at-large Councilor Lynn Underwood Ceglie will serve as vice chair.

Napolitano and Ceglie will not begin their new roles until the Council is sworn in on December 1, at which point an official vote will be taken on both positions.


Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport Reporter for The Public’s Radio. She can be reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org