Rhode Island College alumni are continuing to make an impact in both state and local government. Hillary Lima, who graduated from RIC in 2014, was recently elected to be Coventry’s new Town Council president.
“I still don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Lima said when asked what the feeling was like after being elected council president. “I think mostly that stems from the fact that, to me, I don’t know that you need to be in positions of leadership to make a difference in your community, so I think that’s still kind of the mentality I carry. But at the same time, I take it very seriously, especially in a town where you don’t have a mayor. Your Town Council president is almost like your de facto mayor in that respect.”
Lima was first elected to represent District 4 on the Town Council in May 2021. Her interest in the world of politics began during one of her classes in high school.
She told a story about how in a class, her health teacher explained the need to stay hydrated during one moment, but then told one of her classmates shortly after to throw out their water bottle since drinks weren’t allowed in class. Lima disagreed with that reasoning by the teacher and thought it didn’t make sense.
“I brought up this story from my health class at dinner that night, and my mom invited me to go to a School Committee meeting with her the next day and potentially voice that opinion,” Lima said. “So we went to the School Committee meeting the next day. She showed me how to follow along on an agenda, she pointed out who everyone was sitting at the desk, she showed me how everything worked, she explained what all the items meant. And then she told me, ‘If you want to speak, you can speak during this time at the end called public comment.’”
After speaking at that meeting, Lima said she was hooked and would from then on attend a lot of School Committee and Town Council meetings with her mom.
Her involvement with politics continued in the years that followed, which included working on campaigns, being a page for the Rhode Island Senate in 2013 and helping craft policy briefing packets as a legislative intern in 2014.
It wasn’t only state and local politics that Lima had a lot of involvement in, she was also very involved with student organizations on campus.
During Lima’s time in Student Community Government, she was speaker, vice president and then president, all of which helped prepare her for life in public service where the politics are similar.
“I’d say SCG politics are a microcosm of real-world politics,” she added. “You have personalities and you have competing interests. But at the end of the day, what I appreciate about SCG and what I appreciate about my current Town Council in Coventry is that it’s politics at its core what it should be, which is we all agree where we need to go, we just disagree on how to get there.”
Lima also was part of student organizations on campus such as WXIN and The Anchor. In WXIN, Lima was deputy news director and had a news talk-radio show called “Capitol Hill,” where she did interviews with local elected officials and those in college administration.
At The Anchor, Lima was a writer for the news section.
“One of the pieces I was most proud of was a joint investigative piece I did on where do all of our fees go when it comes to Donovan Dining Center,” she said. “We just went right down the list of what is that extra fee added when you’re buying lunch, what is the fee that I’m paying for when I look at my bill from the semester, all those types of things.”
As Town Council president, Lima said one of her main areas of focus will be “getting back to basics.”
“Making sure the trains are running on time, making sure trash gets picked up on time, making sure that we’re providing our services in a contemporary and friendly and supportive manner,” she added. “Making sure that our financial statements and our budgeting is done accurate and on time. It’s little things like that, that to me, if we’re not even doing those things right, it’s tough to focus on some of the other bigger items.”
Other goals on her radar include making a plan to spend the ARPA funds Coventry received, investments in infrastructure, investments in parks and recreation facilities and repairing school buildings in the town.