The Block Island Times

The time when Nick DePetrillo turned the tables

Dec 13, 2013

Many, many people attended the night Nicholas DePetrillo first sat at the council table and it was a great lesson in the power of optics.

First, of minimal lasting importance but still a shock, was Nick, himself, in a tan corduroy three-piece suit. It was not attire that we were accustomed to seeing him dressed. No, in which we had never seen him dressed. This was Nick, who hosted the Governor at the never-when-he-owned-it completed Capt. Nick’s, cleaning up the place by painting the old grader in the side yard bright, screaming yellow.

Then there was the more important — and more lasting — rearrangement of the table and chairs. In what is again the meeting room of the Town Hall, smaller then, the back part cut into offices, the Council, Clerk and Solicitor sat around a table, some with their backs to the audience. Suddenly, it was flipped, the whole Council was seated facing the people, the Clerk and Solicitor, at a separate table, the way they are today, the way that made absolute sense once we saw it. Bill Stringfellow was Second Warden, Nick a councilor, and they had some rocky days, but that first night I knew government had been changed forever for the better.

It was one of those times we experienced the fact that all the open meeting laws that can be printed do not have the force of a few chairs moved, a few faces turned.

The stories that can — and will — be told about Nick are without end, the list of Nickisms that still floats about is legend, but it need be remembered that the name of a bar, while more lasting than that tan suit, is but a piece of his true legacy. — Martha Ball

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