Denomme re­mem­bered as ‘hands-on’ leader

For­mer North Smith­field Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Arthur Denomme, in pub­lic ser­vice for decades, died last week at age 90

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSEPH B. NADEAU jnadeau@woonsock­et­

NORTH SMITH­FIELD – The town’s sec­ond Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor, Arthur Denomme, was be­ing re­mem­bered this week by those who worked for him as a hand­son town leader who wasn’t above get­ting his hands dirty fix­ing what needed to be fixed.

Denomme died on Oct. 31, at the age of 90, af­ter an ill­ness. He was the hus­band of Lu­cille (Morel) Denomme with whom he raised their five chil­dren, Pauline, Paul, Gail, Marc and Arthur, while liv­ing on Wil­liams Street.

At the Mu­nic­i­pal An­nex Town Clerk De­bra Todd and Con­stance Klockars, a record­ing clerk, re­called how they had started out work­ing for the town while Denomme was town ad­min­is­tra­tor be­tween 1973 and 1987. Denomme was elected af­ter serv­ing on the Town Coun­cil while the town’s first town ad­min­is­tra­tor, Carl Sand­berg, held of­fice. Sand­berg filled the post af­ter it had been cre­ated un­der the town’s new home rule Town Char­ter in 1968.

Denomme came to the job af­ter ser­vice with the U.S. Navy and a work ca­reer the in­cluded run­ning the ma­chine shop at the for­mer French Worsted Mill in Woonsocket, and stints work­ing with area truck­ing com­pa­nies like St. Ger­main Trans­port Ltd. and Nel­son Trans­porta­tion.

He also served as a mem­ber of the North Smith­field Vol­un­teer

Fire Depart­ment, where he would be­come a cap­tain, and with the North Smith­field Am­bu­lance and Res­cue Corp. for which he would serve as chief and later a mem­ber of its board of di­rec­tors.

It was that back­ground in the me­chan­ics of how things worked that made Denomme a frugal town ad­min­is­tra­tor who not only kept spend­ing on bud­get but also found ways to ac­quire needed town ve­hi­cles at rea­son­able costs or fix them when that could gen­er­ate a sav­ings for the town.

“He was very nice to work for, I liked him very much,” Klockars re­called on Mon­day. A town em­ployee for 34 years now, Klockars said it was Denomme who had hired her and brought her into town em­ploy­ment. Back then, town of­fices were in the Me­mo­rial Town Hall on Main Street in Slatersville, and even the Town Coun­cil had a meet­ing space in an up­stairs sec­tion of the build­ing.

Denomme wasn’t above fix­ing lights when told of a prob­lem with one, Klockars said and she also re­mem­bers tak­ing on paint­ing projects with the ad­min­is­tra­tor when needed.

“Arthur was a great guy, he was very per­son­able,” Klockars said.

Todd, who has worked for the town 32 years, was also hired un­der Denomme’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and had been sad­dened by the news of his pass­ing. “I know he had had some med­i­cal is­sues over the past few years and I feel bad for his fam­ily,” she said.

Af­ter his re­tire­ment from pub­lic ser­vice, Denomme had con­tin­ued to be a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to the town’s of­fices when pay­ing his taxes or stop­ping in for some­thing with Lu­cille, Todd said. “He’d stopped by and say hi and al­ways re­mem­bered us. He was just a nice man, and he and his wife, Lu­cille, were both nice peo­ple,” she said.

Denomme had worn many dif­fer­ent hats dur­ing his town ser­vice be­yond that of Ad­min­is­tra­tor. He re­turned to the Town Coun­cil from 1989 to 1993 and he was also a mem­ber of the John H. Chafee Black­stone River Val­ley Na­tional Her­itage Cor­ri­dor Com­mis­sion, a past mem­ber of the town’s Zon­ing Board of Re­view, and a mem­ber of the North Smith­field Ki­wa­nis Club – just to name a few.

There was also his man­age­ment of the town’s High­way Depart­ment, a role he han­dled with ex­per­tise dur­ing win­ter storms when he might take on driv­ing a plow truck, or dur­ing the Bliz­zard of 1978 when he found ways to get the town’s buried road­ways op­er­at­ing again.

That part of Denomme’s ser­vice to the town was rec­og­nized in De­cem­ber of 2016, when cur­rent and past mem­bers of the Town Coun­cil, lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tors, and for­mer Town So­lic­i­tor Paul Bail­largeon teamed up with Pub­lic Works Su­per­in­ten­dent Ray Pen­der­gast to ded­i­cate the town High­way Barn on Quaker High­way in Denomme’s honor.

For­mer Town Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Ron Re­naud, one of the town’s young Repub­li­cans who had learned the ropes of their of­fices un­der the se­nior Denomme’s guid­ance, re­called that time dur­ing the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony.

“Arthur taught me a lot more than just be­ing in pol­i­tics,” Re­naud told the gather­ing. “He taught me how to be a per­son who deals with other peo­ple,” Re­naud said.

The town’s cur­rent town ad­min­is­tra­tor, Gary Ezovski, also re­called Denomme’s im­pact from the days when he had been just a young mem­ber of the Sewer Com­mis­sion.

Denomme had asked him if he was ready to han­dle the con­tro­versy that would come along with de­vel­op­ing a new sewer sys­tem for the town, Ezovski ex­plained.

“So he cared. He cared about peo­ple and he cared about his town,” Ezovski. Denomme, he added, was a town of­fi­cial who “did his job ev­ery day.”

On Mon­day, Bail­largeon re­called how the town was much dif­fer­ent when he first got to know Denomme, first as a Lit­tle League coach with other town no­ta­bles such as Frank Pacheco and Harold Mon­roe, and later, while he worked a sum­mer job at the French Worsted Mill.

“They were coaches in Lit­tle League so they got to know the kids who grew up in town and stayed to help the town evolve over the years,” Bail­largeon said.

Af­ter his own ser­vice with the mil­i­tary and earn­ing his law de­gree, Bail­largeon re­turned to work for the town as town so­lic­i­tor, first un­der Sand­berg and then for Denomme through his time as ad­min­is­tra­tor.

In those days, lo­cal res­i­dents man­aged their own town fi­nances by vot­ing at the An­nual Fi­nan­cial Town Meet­ing, ses­sions that could draw be­tween 300 to 600 peo­ple and con­sid­ered all types of town spend­ing and hir­ings.

The Town Coun­cil was up on stage at the high school with the town ad­min­is­tra­tor, the school su­per­in­ten­dent and the School Com­mit­tee and the Town Bud­get Com­mit­tee as town mod­er­a­tors like Scott Keefer ran the meet­ing and man­aged the votes.

“Arthur ran that whole sys­tem,” Bail­largeon said while ex­plain­ing how Denomme was able to main­tain co­op­er­a­tion be­tween all the par­tic­i­pat­ing groups to get the town’s work done.

“He worked on all the prob­lems and if he didn’t have the an­swers he found out who in town govern­ment did,” Bail­largeon said.

It was very pos­si­bly his ap­proach to deal­ing with peo­ple that helped the town move for­ward to­gether on prob­lems in those days and Bail­largeon said he has seen other pe­ri­ods over the years when that was not the case.

“He ran the town ef­fi­ciently and was prob­a­bly the most ef­fec­tive Ad­min­is­tra­tor I have seen since I be­came in­volved in town govern­ment in 1970,” Bail­largeon said.

“It’s a tough loss,” Bail­largeon said of Denomme’s pass­ing. ““He was a great guy, ab­so­lutely,” Bail­largeon said.

Call file photo

Arthur Denomme was a na­tive of Woonsocket, but he would even­tu­ally be­come known to many as “The Mayor of North Smith­field” due to his decades of hold­ing a se­ries of pub­lic of­fices in the town, in­clud­ing town ad­min­is­tra­tor.

In 1980, Call car­toon­ist Larry Cham­pagne de­picted Denomme, cen­ter, along with Woonsocket Mayor Ger­ard J. Bouley and Cum­ber­land Town Ad­min­is­tra­tor Frank Stetkiewicz, as lead­ers of the ‘Spirit of the Black­stone Val­ley.’

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