Bristol Town Administrator Antonio “Tony” Teixeira plans to spend the second year of his first term concentrating on economic development – not being re-elected next fall.
“I won’t even think about re-election until next August,” said Teixeira, who was elected to the post last November and took over the post almost exactly a year ago. “There’s too much to be done.”
The former teacher, soccer coach and dean of students at Mt. Hope High School really never expected to segue into a much different form of public service when he retired after 31 years in education in 2009.
He said two women came up to him outside the Stop & Shop supermarket in Bristol and said: “You will run for Town Council. Not, you should run. You will run.”
So he did, as an independent.
“I didn’t want to be associated with either party,” said Teixeira, a native of Faial, the Azores. “I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. I can be part of the solution as an independent.”
Teixeira ran and was the top vote-getter. Then after two years and with former Brstiol administrator Diane Medeiros stepping down, those same two ladies came up to him again and said: “You will run for Town Administrator.”
So he did, again as an independent, and won the post by a 2-1 margin.
Teixeira thinks all the students he taught or coached and the experience he got in education was a big help for him in both elections and as he has settled into the position.
“Some of that experience has been a nice training ground for this job,” said Teixeira, who has spent big chunks of the past year streamlining department responsibilities, setting up an organizational structure he is more comfortable with, working to create more collaboration among department heads.
“I encourage collaboration,” he said. “It’s we do our thing, not my thing.”
Among his accomplishments in 2013 have been Bristol’s purchases of the Prudence Island Ferry dock and the former Azevedo property from State Street to the armory building. It gives Bristol more access to the waterfront, he said, for future development of other docks and a marina that might be able to generate revenue for the town.
He also points to the construction of a new animal shelter and the retrofitting of the Quinta-Gamelin Building on Asylum Road, a former U.S. Army Reserve building, as highlights of his first year. It will be operated by the recreation department after the water and sewers are upgraded.
He also wants to see Bristol’s low recycling rate of 19 percent boosted at least to 35 percent, the state’s minimum, so the town can recoup savings and cut its landfill tipping fees.
“We have a committee working on that now, to raise awareness and re-educate the public,” he said.
Economic development is definitely his top priority in 2014, though, Teixeira stressed. And right now, he said, “We’re back to square one.”
“Do we need somebody brought on board?” he said. “We have an economic development commission. But I am in limbo on that.”
Teixeira praised the Bristol Merchants Association and its Explore Bristol website, which he feels sure will bring more people to the town to shop and eat in its restaurants.
“They are a very active group and looking for office space,” he said.
He also points, in particular, to the three Town Common schools -- Byfield, Reynolds and Walley -- as some key components of economic development because two of the former schools are already providing inexpensive space for the arts and as an incubator for other businesses.
“They are a lifeline,” he said. “But not a lifetime. I want to see them (tenants) move into other commercial space after two or three years.”
That can open up that space again for other arts and business ventures, he said.
“We need to bridge all of this,” said Teixeira of economic development efforts in Bristol. “We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us.”