Roberge: Community engagement is ‘key’

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 9:00am

“I’ve spent a career engaging people.”

That’s what Town Manager Edward Roberge told The Block Island Times during an interview in his office at Town Hall on Wednesday. Roberge, who assumed his role as Town Manager on Monday, said his intent was “to engage as many people in the community as possible.”

Roberge said when he was City Engineer for the City of Concord, New Hampshire, he was involved in a lot of public outreach efforts, including with the youth in the community. He said it’s important to reach out, and listen to what people have to say, something he will do on Block Island.

“I’ve been meeting a lot of people on the island, and trying to get around the community,” said Roberge, who noted that he has been meeting individually with the staff at Town Hall. “So far, so good.” He noted that former Interim Town Manager Shirlyne Gobern has provided “great support” in acclimating him to the position.

Roberge said he enjoyed the meet and greet hosted by the New Shoreham Town Council at The Barn on Monday evening. “I’ll remember the faces of the people that I spoke with there,” he said. “We had some great conversations. I’ve learned a lot about Block Island.”

As for his role as Town Manager, Roberge said he toured the island, and “looked at some of the town’s” large capital assets. He noted that building “sustainable” capital assets is important to Block Island’s future. He met with the Town Council at a work session on Wednesday, and discussed the town’s goals.

One of the issues he is familiar with is the insufficient rental and affordable housing on the island, something he was confronted with personally in his pursuit of housing. “Housing is a challenge here, as it is with most resort communities. We need to find the best strategy to address it. It won’t be easy, but the community will come together to find a solution.”

Roberge said he is leasing a property in the Figurehead Building on Water Street, which is across the street from where the Block Island Ferry docks in Old Harbor. “I walked to work this morning,” he said, while seated behind his clutter-free desk, something he knows will change.

“I want to thank the community for being so welcoming,” said Roberge, noting that he’s experienced “a welcoming feeling” during his first few days in office at Town Hall. “It’s a good feeling. People are really engaged and committed to this community.”