WARWICK, R.I.—He’s not Peter Torigian, at least not yet.
But Scott Avedisian is setting his own example for longevity as a six-term mayor of Warwick, the state’s second largest city with a population of 85,000 residents behind Providence.
Torigian, if you recall, held office in Peabody, Mass. for 11 terms or 22 years, prior to his death in 2004 to cancer at the age of 68. During his venerable tenure over the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s, he ranked as the longest-reigning mayor in Massachusetts history.
Avedisian is setting his own pace in the Narragansett State—one day at a time—and letting the years and terms fall where they may.
Under his leadership, Warwick was named one of the top 100 cities in which to reside in America as well as one of the safest. For that, Avedisian bubbles over with pride.
“I stand behind my record as a moderate Republican,” says the 46-year-old. “I’ve been so durable in electoral politics because of my ability to reach across the political aisle.”
Just as genuine is the highest bond rating of any city in Rhode Island. Of particular note is the preservation of some 250 acres of farmland, including 41 acres, and a mile of coastline at the former Rocky Point Amusement Park.
Aside from environmental growth in his community, there have been budget surpluses every year and a number of other advances. Warwick is actually comprised of more than 30 villages, each with their own place in history, lending a warm, close-knit feel to the outsider.
The city is burgeoning with business growth, public safety, and high educational standards, not to exclude quality youth recreation and senior life. Among the city’s annual festivals is Gaspee Days each spring in historic Pawtuxet Village, which celebrates the first armed conflict of the American Revolution before the Boston Tea Party.
The Armenian side of him is often portrayed at Armenian National Committee events, genocide memorials, and youth activities such as the AYF Olympics whenever it hits his state. He’s traveled with the ANC to Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to pass a genocide resolution and hosted annual flag-raising ceremonies at Warwick City Hall.
His impressions of the Armenian community reach a pinnacle in Rhode Island stature.
“They’re hard-working and intensely loyal people,” he says. “I get a lot of support and there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for the Armenian community when asked.”
Avedisian was greatly influenced by Haiganush Bedrosian, who was recently appointed family court judge in Rhode Island, and Aram Garabedian, a former political leader. A photo of him being administered the oath of office by Bedrosian was published in the Providence Journal on Jan. 5. A second photo of the two leaders chatting also made the edition.
His political record stands on merit. After serving in state government offices, Avedisian ran for City Council in 1990. He was re-elected to that office for the next four terms. In 1999, then-Mayor Lincoln Chafee was appointed to his late father’s seat in the United States Senate.
Avedisian was elected mayor in 2000 and never vacated the seat. In each election, he captured every ward and every poling district, given his popularity and performance. Also at this year’s inauguration were prayers offered by Very Rev. Gomidas Baghsarian, pastor, St. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church.
In his acceptance speech, Avedisian told his constituents, “I know there are some out there who might say this administration is tired. That can’t be further from the truth. I’m approaching this new term with renewed enthusiasm and vigor.”
How’s it feel being a moderate Republican dealing with an almost exclusive Democratic City Council (8-1)? He calls for continued bipartisan efforts on the part of all elected officials.
“Each day my administration and I make decisions that affect the daily lives of our residents,” he points out. “None of us takes this responsibility lightly.
The youngest child of the late George and Jacqueline Avedisian, the mayor’s grandfather (Arsen Avedisian) was also active in the Armenian community and was the real estate broker that founded an Episcopal Church on Broadway in Providence, which later became home to St. Vartanantz Church.
Avedisian was honored with the Haig Sarafian Award by the Armenian Students Association given for outstanding citizenship and was named Armenian of the Year by the Armenian Masonic Degree Team.
He is a 1987 graduate of Providence College and secured a masters degree in public administration from Roger Williams University, along with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the New England Institute of Technology.
Avedisian was named one of the inaugural Rodel Fellows at the Aspen Institute, a bipartisan group of elected officials charged with reclaiming the middle ground of American politics.
He is currently president of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, the highest position any layman can have in the church. He’s served on the board of St. Mary’s Home for Children over the past two decades.
His favorite trip is to Jerusalem, especially the Armenian Quarter. Hobbies are travel, exercise, and reading.
A standard day begins at 5 a.m. with a trip to the gym, followed by office hours, staff time, meetings, and events during the afternoon, and public appearances/meetings at night. The clock has no set hours in his time frame.
Had Avedisian not chosen politics for a career, what would have been an alternate profession?
“Either and attorney or an architect,” he admits.