The list of RIC alumni who hold important roles in local government continues to grow. Providence Ward 13 City Councilwoman Rachel Miller ‘15 is expected to become the next City Council president in January.
“It’s really exciting to have an opportunity to bring folks together from pretty much every corner of the city,” Miller said. “In the group that I’ve been working with, there’s five Councilors-elect and five folks who are incumbents returning. My hope is that we’ll get to talk to and bring aboard everyone. There’s just tremendous opportunities when we actually represent the full best, and geography and diversity of the city of Providence to represent our neighborhoods but also together, move Providence forward.”
Miller organized a caucus meeting, where ten candidates, including incumbents and incoming councilors, signed a letter of intent to vote for her. On that list was Ward 8 City Councilman James Taylor, who was also speculated to be seeking the position.
“The conversations mostly were about, ‘Okay what’s our goal here? And if our goal is responsive government, strong dialogue and disagreeing with integrity – what’s our path to getting there?’ And so I was able to speak with some of the Councilors who were thinking about running, and we agreed on these core principles of how we want to move Providence forward,” Miller said, describing how the conversations went with her colleagues who planned to run.
Key issues on Miller’s radar are housing, education, public safety and the environment. Mayor-elect Brett Smiley campaigned on a variety of similar issues, with one of the core parts of his platform being city services and holding city vendors accountable.
In regard to Smiley’s goal of improving Providence’s basic city services, Miller said there’s, “100% common ground” on that issue.
“I think that everyone who ran in the mayor’s race also came to this work with the idea that there are key ways that we want to move Providence forward. I think Mayor-elect Smiley and I will find a lot of common ground, and when we disagree, we will do it in an open dialogue,” she added.
The 25 license plate reading cameras being installed around Providence was one of several hot-button issues this summer. Miller was one of several city councilors who supported a full review before the cameras were turned on. She said that she’ll be seeking more council input in, “how the data is used and how the cameras are used.”
Education, while being one of this year’s hot-button issues too, is also a perennial concern amongst voters. Miller highlighted several priorities when it comes to education such as getting the public schools back to city control, social and emotional support for students, extracurricular activities and repairing crumbling school buildings. Another topical discussion around education is November’s ballot question asking voters if they support or oppose Providence’s School Board becoming half-elected and half mayor-appointed. Currently, all ten members are appointed by the mayor. Miller supports the proposal for a hybrid School Board.
“We have the opportunity to have parents and community members from across the city really participating in the conversation about our schools, and making decisions,” Miller said. “We are not a large city, but our neighborhoods are distinct and represent different voices. So, having that at the forefront is incredible.”
Now the RIC community can say two of Providence’s last three council presidents are alumni. Miller, who’ll be sworn-in January, and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos ‘01, who was in that position until 2021 before being appointed lieutenant governor.
Miller earned her first degree in 2001 as a music major at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Later on, she attended RIC and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in 2015. Miller, who was a chemistry major, enjoyed her time at the college.
“It was remarkable. Here’s my pitch – even if you are hardcore humanities, which I definitely was, spending time in the physical sciences department, taking classes [and] doing that work is [a] remarkable opportunity to expand how you see the world, how you understand data,” she said. “I truly enjoyed classes with Doctors Knowlton, Cooley and Leung. They made chemistry so expansive in terms of what’s core and root about our world.”