SMITHFIELD, R.I. — David P. Tikoian is a proud Armenian and Smithfield, Rhode Island’s newest Town Council member. “No matter what I do, I never forget my Armenian heritage,” he said during a recent interview with the Weekly. A member of Sts. Vartanantz Church and a veteran Rhode Island State Police officer, Tikoian recalled when then-RI Governor Donald L. Carcieri asked him one day in the car why he was always smiling. “Do you know how lucky I am to be here?” Tikoian replied. “My grandmother and grandfather were orphans. They survived the [Armenian] Genocide and came to the United States as orphans. If they didn’t survive, you wouldn’t have David sitting in the car next to you, so why wouldn’t I be happy? I’m just happy to be here,” he explained.
Late last week, the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Rhode Island announced Tikoian’s election to the Smithfield Town Council. After declaring his candidacy in June this year, he handily won his seat (a two-year term) in November with 5,862 votes—the highest number for a town council candidate in Smithfield’s history—adding another notable accomplishment to his distinguished career. Financing for his election bid primarily came from out-of-town supporters through phone calls due to pandemic restrictions. One family in town—the Janigians—decided to host a COVID-compliant fundraiser this summer with just 15 people outdoors (the maximum number allowed at the time). Armen Janigian and his family moved to Smithfield a couple of years ago and wanted to express support for Tikoian; Janigian also served as Tikoian’s campaign treasurer.
Tikoian currently serves as Director of Transmission and Distribution for the Providence Water Supply Board. His career also spanned 25 years in law enforcement, first with the Rhode Island State Police, progressing from trooper to major, and then as North Providence Police Chief.
When Tikoian retired from the State Police, a retirement party was held at the Providence Marriott Hotel which my family was privileged to attend. A record-breaking number of people attended, with more arriving, and the hotel was pressed to set up tables outside the main banquet hall to accommodate everyone. Tikoian donated the proceeds from that event to three charities: the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of RI (of which his late father Peter Bedros Tikoian was a founding member), the Boys and Girls Clubs and the State Police Museum Foundation.
As North Providence Police Chief—a position he accepted at the request of Mayor Charles A. Lombardi—Tikoian was credited with transforming the department which successfully earned RI state accreditation. His experience as administrative major with the RI State Police, managing a $97 million budget, handling contract negotiations and personnel issues, prepared Tikoian as police chief to serve as chairperson of the North Providence Public Safety Building Committee where he ensured timely completion of the $28 million capital project under budget.
Why enter the political arena and run for Smithfield Town Council after his illustrious career in law enforcement? Not only does Tikoian possess the skill set needed to serve as a council member responsible for staff and a $68 million budget, he also expressed aspirations to progress to higher office someday, potentially the General Assembly and beyond. Most importantly, “I had the time to give back to a community that’s given so much to me,” he explained. “I’m a product of the Smithfield public school system from kindergarten through high school. The town has always been very supportive of me, and I’ve never forgotten my roots in this town,” he elaborated.
Due to the pandemic, his swearing-in ceremony on December 1 was restricted to three people: Tikoian, RI Attorney General Peter F. Neronha who administered the oath, and Smithfield Town Manager Randy R. Rossi. “I wanted to take off my mask for the photo,” laughed Tikoian. “So you see us 10 feet apart so we could take the photo and then we masked up again right away,” he said. Tikoian explained that he asked Attorney General Neronha to administer his oath because “he epitomizes honesty, integrity and a hard work ethic.” In addition, he has been a close friend and supporter of Tikoian throughout his years in law enforcement, including serving as keynote speaker at his swearing-in as Chief of Police in North Providence.
When first approached by the Weekly to discuss his election, Tikoian expressed his desire to inspire other young Rhode Islanders. After graduating from high school, Tikoian entered the University of Rhode Island but was uncomfortable with the larger campus and class environment. In order to please his parents and continue his education, he decided to attend the Community College of RI (CCRI). He explained that his decision to attend CCRI was made after learning that former RI Lt. Governor Roger Begin was a graduate. “If he went to (at that time) RI Junior College, and he became lieutenant governor and he went to that school, then that’s good enough for me,” said Tikoian, who now serves on the community college’s alumni board. Following CCRI, Tikoian went on to graduate 11th in his class from Bryant University with a 3.975 GPA. “If I can do it, anybody can,” he said.