In the 40 years of my public service, I’ve served with hundreds of colleagues. Rarely have I had the opportunity, however, to serve with one as determined and relentless in pursuit of honorable goals as Sen. James Sheehan. Once Jim has studied a problem and selected the best options to address that problem, he will pursue his options purposefully and creatively.
Jim and I have had the opportunity to work together on many issues affecting the community and our state such as Separation of Powers, ethics disclosure laws, Narragansett Water quality, government accountability and oversight, economic development and so on. In working together, Jim Sheehan has shown himself to be an ardent, intelligent and effective legislator.
As a case in point, for a number of years I labored to make government records more transparent and open to the public as a means to increase greater public accountability. When I retired from the Senate, Jim undertook the enormous task of getting this important piece of contentious legislation approved. Jim went straight to work, gaining a depth of understanding of both the critical issues involved as well as the very disparate stakeholder groups tugging in various directions. Jim, working with his counterpart in the House, managed to bring all parties to the table, finding common ground where there had been little room for compromise before. Two years later, Senator Jim Sheehan successfully won passage of landmark Access to Public Records law, setting our state head and shoulders above many other states in terms of open government.
This issue illustrates how Jim is willing to work with his colleagues to reach the accommodations necessary for passage of good legislation. Jim knows that compromise is one of the currencies in which representative democracy trades. However, Jim will not compromise where his principles are involved. In both public and private I have seen Jim stand up to the attacks, disapproval and confrontation of others because he refused to retreat from his standards of right and wrong in government.
In conclusion, it should be said that North Kingstown and Narragansett share a senator to whom ethics is more than just a word in the dictionary, to whom hard work is no stranger and to whom service is a watchword. I don’t write letters of endorsement very often but in Jim Sheehan’s case I do so without reservation.
J. Michael Lenihan
State Senator, Retired, District 35