VINCENT A. CIANCI, JR.
LONGEST SERVING MAYOR OF PROVIDENCE
JANUARY 7, 1975-APRIL 25, 1984
JANUARY 7, 1991-SEPTEMBER 6, 2002
Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. was born on April 30, 1941, the son of Dr. Vincent A. Cianci, a medical doctor, and Esther (Capobianco) Cianci. He was reunited with his parents and his beautiful and beloved daughter, Nicole, on January 28, 2016.
In 1974 the City of Providence’s future changed forever when political newcomer, Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., defeated the incumbent mayor by just slightly more than 700 votes. Mayor Cianci’s toughest job lie ahead—reviving a decrescent, dying and neglected capital city. Undaunted, the 33-year old new mayor launched an ambitious plan to turn the lackluster city into a thriving urban environment.
Business development was encouraged with new empowerment zones, tax incentives and low interest loans. In 1976, Mayor Cianci earmarked millions of dollars for a major upgrade of Roger Williams Park and Zoo, the catalyst for future projects, which transformed the dilapidated venue into the first New England zoo to be accredited by the American Zoological Association. Downtown Providence’s River Relocation Project redirected waterways to provide the platform for the award winning Waterplace Park. Providence’s downtown renaissance attracted major construction projects, upscale hotels, the high-end mall, Providence Place, and even a hockey team, the Providence Bruins. The Rhode Island Convention Center along with the newly refurbished Dunkin Donuts Center serves as a top destination for tourists, conventions and world-class competitions.
The city’s revitalization extended to the neighborhoods with new schools, recreational facilities, community centers, parks, and beautification projects. Buddy secured federal funds to assist homebuyers with ownership opportunities; police substations were established to create community policing and safer neighborhoods. He put Providence on the map as an innovative leader in the fight against crime by counteracting the terrible toll of gun violence through the creation of our nation’s first specialized Gun Court. He invested in and respected the Providence Police and Fire Departments, propelling Providence to earn the distinction as the “Safest City in the continental United States” in 1994. In 2000 and 2001 Money magazine named Providence as the “Best City in which to live in the East” and one of America’s top five urban centers.
Buddy championed the arts and ensured that funds were available to local theatre venues including the award winning Trinity Repertory Company and the alternative arts forum AS220. With Buddy creating the Providence Film Commission and enthusiastically lobbying Hollywood to film in the city, Hollywood arrived, to make movies and to use the city as a backdrop. The hit NBC television series Providencealso filmed in the city, greatly enhancing its reputation as a desirable destination site.
Buddy was a staunch supporter of preserving Providence’s history, going against the grain to make historic preservation one of his priorities when other cities were tearing down historic buildings in areas similar to Benefit Street and Federal Hill. In 2006 the Providence Preservation Society inducted Buddy into its Hall of Fame, recognizing his incredible role in making Providence a rare city in which, as he said, “Most of our history is still here.” Saving the former Ocean State Theater downtown to become a linchpin of the arts district as the Providence Performing Arts Theater (PPAC) and securing funds for its expansion to stage big Broadway shows was yet another one of his achievements for which he was recognized by the League of American Theaters. In 2000, Buddy was voted by Americans for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors as the winner of the “Government Leadership in the Arts Award,” as the local arts award recipient.
During his 21 years as Mayor of Providence, Buddy was widely considered one of the most charismatic leaders in the city’s history. In 1996 the American Association of Government Officials named him “America’s Most Innovative Mayor.” In 1998 his ratings were so high that he ran unopposed. And on September 23, 1999, Buddy became Providence’s longest serving Mayor and the nation’s longest serving “big city” mayor.
Buddy was immensely active on the lecture circuit and was the keynote speaker at myriad universities, colleges, and civic organizations. He hosted “The Buddy Cianci Show” on 630 WPRO and 99.7 FM. Buddy also shared his insights and unparalleled witty analysis of city, state and national issues as the chief political commentator for ABC6, WNAC-TV in Providence. Nationally, Buddy was a regular guest on the Fox network’s syndicated Hannity Show, as well as frequently appearing on numerous other nationally syndicated radio and TV shows.
Buddy’s awards and accolades far exceed the space available. However, it is important to dispel the myth that Buddy took credit for all that occurred during the 21 years of his brilliant leadership of the City of Providence.
An excerpt of a thank you that he wrote for the program for the November 19, 2015 unveiling of his portrait at Providence City Hall follows, in Buddy’s own words: “Our accomplishments are a tribute to everyone whose hard work, belief, and support changed the face and the spirit of Providence and raised our self esteem to heights previously unknown. During the six terms of my service as Mayor, we transformed Rhode Island’s capital city through our belief in ourselves, and in one another. But most especially, through our love for Providence.” This was not atypical. This was classic Buddy. He was generous in sharing credit, and in praising members of his staff and departments who met his rigorous high standards.
Whether in greeting Presidents or residents, everyone received the same treatment—a warm and welcoming reception and Buddy’s complete attention. He was especially attentive to the needs of Providence’s most economically needy residents and completely supportive of those seeking assistance from the city’s associations and neighborhoods largely representative of African Americans, and African, Latino, Southeast Asian and Eastern European refugees and immigrants hoping to realize the American Dream in Providence. His heart was as big as his dreams, and his actions were geared to propelling increased opportunities for prosperity for all.
It is impossible to capture Buddy in words. But everyone who knew him or even received a fleeting greeting is aware of his magic and has at least one personal Buddy story to tell.
Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr.’s legacy is forever woven into the tapestry of Providence—its history, present and future. He often said that his finest accomplishments went beyond fixing crumbling sidewalks or moving rivers and lighting them on fire, or even being one of the leaders of the Providence Renaissance. He saw his greatest accomplishment as increasing the pride Providence residents took in living in a progressive and livable city, alive with culture and opportunity.
Buddy Cianci is survived by his adored sister Carol and her husband Dr. John Turchetta of Warwick, his three beloved grandchildren, Olivia, Joseph and Julius Cianci of Providence, and the light of his life, his fiancée Tara Marie Haywood of Providence. Buddy also leaves five cherished nieces and nephew, Tamara Turchetta, Toronto, Canada; Dr. Jay Turchetta (Kathie), Harvard, MA; Todd Turchetta (Jennifer), Pound Ridge, NY; Dr. Brad Turchetta (Cathy), East Greenwich; and Holly Li (Ling), Amagansett, NY, as well as 17 grandnieces and nephews and his cousins, Norma Lynch, Cranston, and Jean Gatto, Upper Montclair, NJ.
Buddy will lie in state outside of the Mayor’s Office on the second floor of Providence City Hall from 12 noon-6 PM on Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul at 10 AM on Monday, February 8. The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, will be the main celebrant. The Nardolillo Funeral Home, Cranston, is handling arrangements. Please see www.nardolillo.com.
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations in Buddy’s memory may be made to the Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. Library and Research Center, P.O. Box 6184, Providence, RI 02940.
Mayor Cianci attended thousands of funerals and spoke at many of them. He loved to incorporate this quote from Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood, William Wordsworth, 1815.
“Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind.”
Rest in peace, Mayor.