I am Melissa "Missy" Devine, I am running for a seat in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and I am asking for your vote in the September 13th primary. This page is intended to tell you a bit more about me, why I made the choice to run, and why I think I am the best candidate to represent your concerns and values.
You’ll find I care deeply about legacy Democratic issues – responsible gun management, protection of laws that enable women to make their own choices about their reproductive health, preservation of our environment and climate, and affordable elder care including thoughtful support for caregivers. On the local level, I want to improve cell and internet connectivity for our district, increase public school funding, and examine viable options to make Post Road more hospitable to travel and business.
Who Is Melissa?
I was born in Rhode Island and my family’s ties to Quidnessett and the North End trace back about a century; the area, you may know, retains a good deal of the rural character that complemented it even during Quonset’s heyday as a Naval base.
My father, Bill, a lifetime New England Telephone lineman and proud employee of ‘Ma Bell,’ was a nature enthusiast who used to enjoy walking the bike path that replaced the rusted Navy fencing of old. In his retirement he would bike the path to his summer job at Allen Harbor Marina. This scenic bike path that skirts along Quonset Business Park is a perfect example of the thoughtful repurposing of land, and a great partnership between the town of North Kingstown and the State of Rhode Island.
My mother, Kay, also a lifetime Rhode Islander, was born in Providence and often fondly reminisces about her Irish family creating memories in and around both the city and at the family cottage at Roy Carpenter’s Beach. My mom and her parents are the reason my family grew up with a natural inclination to the ocean, and why I am so committed to protecting our coastline.
I’m lucky enough to have a large extended family with many aunts, uncles, and cousins, many of whom also live in RI. I am extremely proud of my family’s service to our nation. Every one of the Devine uncles (and even a Devine aunt!) served in the armed forces; my uncle Dick and his wife Nancy are buried in Arlington National Cemetery and it is my honor to visit their gravesite, and also find his name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall when I am at work in Washington, DC. The Wreaths Across America Mission is also a big family highlight during the holidays.
After starting as a kindergartner at Quidnessett Elementary, Dad’s work relocated us to Camden, Maine, where I biked to school, enjoyed family hikes up Mt. Battie, and ate ice cream with my siblings -- Bill, Jen and Ted -- at the town dock. My first ‘job’ was collecting bottles and cans for Maine’s recycling program; a great way for a scrappy kid to earn some pocket change. We returned to North Kingstown in 1980, where my time at Davisville Middle School and North Kingstown High School (band geek, marching band majorette) prepared me for the University of Rhode Island where I received a degree in Journalism and Political Science.
As a young person, I took on all kinds of work -- a local paper route for the ProJo, a dietary aide at Scalabrini Villa, a waitress, an intern at a local television news station – before starting as a tourism marketing specialist for the State Economic Development Corporation, now CommerceRI. Initiatives there built my appreciation for the interconnectedness of economic, environmental, and social goals and values. For example, the ‘Birthplace of Fun’ campaign celebrated Rhode Island’s industrial and innovation roots and, through the creation of dozens of statues reimagining Hasbro’s iconic Mr. Potato Head, drew residents and tourists alike to a search for the pieces all over the Ocean State. I had the pleasure of organizing spud placements at the Wawaloam School and Quidnessett Elementary.
Learning from Change and Tough Issues
I have also experienced a variety of challenges, and, like many people, learned much. I lost my tourism job during a large layoff, but it spurred me to develop a freelance career in tourism, marketing, meeting and convention planning, and film production which I have enjoyed immensely. I met my father’s long-term and ultimately fatal illness head-on, wading with no choice into the difficult navigation of eldercare bureaucracy during the beginning of the pandemic. Also, I built my interest in environmental issues, assisting in the creation of advocacy materials for the Coastal Resources Center and working in sales for a company that offers green cleaning products for commercial business.
I have been lucky to be self-employed, but am aware that not all of the 10 million people classified that way have chosen it. Freelance work is often used as a dodge by some employers to hide what is essentially the theft of wages and benefits from employees.
Flexibility in my schedule has left time to volunteer, and I have come to know so much good in our community: working on community activities and events for the Blue Bus Foundation (formerly the North Kingstown Chamber Charitable Foundation) as well as serving on the North Kingstown Arts Council. These programs have been valuable to me in meeting people from all over our area. I also became active in local politics and in advocacy issues during the 2016 Presidential Election. In 2017 I attended the Washington D.C. Women’s March, which energized my focus and concern for key Democratic foundations, including civil rights, environmental protection, and reproductive freedom. I am keenly aware that my voice, along with other Rhode Islanders, helped codify a key piece of State legislation, the Reproductive Privacy Act, that will firmly protect women’s health and choice in Rhode Island.
I CONSIDER THIS RACE TO BE OUR RACE
Today, I serve on the Executive Committee of the North Kingstown Democratic Committee and am aware that more than ever, our local party must clearly and actively affirm our commitment to key issues that define us. I am stepping up because I am no longer confident that key issues – especially gun reform, environmental and climate issues, and protection of women’s rights – are being treated within my party with the urgency they deserve and demand.
I look forward to seeing you at the primary on Tuesday, September 13th. Early voting begins on August 24th.
All the best,