Not long after moving to Conimicut, Ginny Barham wanted to learn more about the community and started attending village association meetings. Not long after that she thought of serving on …
Not long after moving to Conimicut, Ginny Barham wanted to learn more about the community and started attending village association meetings. Not long after that she thought of serving on the board of directors. She wasn’t elected, but that didn’t stop her.
Next time she ran she was elected to the board as President “and years later I couldn’t get off,” she said.
As of November 14, Ginny stepped down after serving 14 years as association president, the longest tenure of any president since the association was incorporated in 1984.
Ginny is pleased.
“I feel it has come a long way” she says of the village. As the village watchdog and advocate, the association has been there to promote safety, and a pleasing and appealing environment, as host of events that bring people together, and as a sounding board at monthly meetings where concerns and issues as well as new ideas are brought forward.
Ginny is a seasoned leader and she’ll admit that after retiring as a Colonel in the Rhode Island National Guard where she served as chief of staff, she was looking for a role where she could make a difference.
During her 14-years, CVA membership grew from 75 to nearly 200. Beautification of the village center is a priority with hanging flowers and potted plants, flags and banners and Christmas lights and wreaths.
It takes work and volunteers. Volunteers hang the decorations, weed the sidewalks, empty trash barrels and patrol West Shore Road weekly for trash. There are five teams of two – the litter bugs - that walk West Shore Road for the pickup.
“The funny thing is people will say ‘hey, it’s nice that you’re doing that, you must work for the city.’”
The association has partnered with village businesses to empty barrels and cleanup, but that hasn’t always worked out. Ginny admits her frustration, but recognizes, too, there are those who don’t have the same level of commitment.
For a period, bringing more businesses into the village was a goal. Personally, Ginny sees that as shifting, pointing out that there aren’t as many empty store fronts as there had once been.
“We all want businesses, but where are they going to go,” she asks.
Her focus has been on keeping the village clean, slowing traffic - a long time issue that has improved with clearly defined crosswalks and in-street pedestrian crosswalk signs, most notably at the Post Office – and on making it attractive.
“I’m seeing a village that looks alive,” she said.
There were some stand-out occasions in 14 years including the parade her husband Lonnie, also a retired colonel, organized to commemorate the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon. The event was the only known parade of its kind in the country. A lot of hard work went into it with schools, scouts, bands, the military, the city and even Rhode Island’s own astronaut Sherwood Clark Spring playing a part. To Ginny and Lonnie’s disappointment the weather didn’t cooperate, delivering a blistering August day that sucked the air out of participants. There have been a multitude of association-sponsored or co-sponsored events including the village-wide yard sale in September, craft festivals at Conimicut Point Park that incoming leadership has revived, as part of the Woodbury Union Church Spooktacular, the tree lighting with Santa, which is also an event co-sponsored by the church and the Easter egg hunt at Clegg Field.
Ginny remains hopeful of a Conimicut Point Park gazebo, which Ward 4 Councilman James McElroy listed as a priority for American Rescue Act Program funding, even though cost projections have escalated. A boat ramp at the point is another capital improvement she would like to see, but believes could be excessively costly because of the perpetually shifting sands.
With so many gains and new projects emerging, why is she stepping aside as president?
“It’s enough of one person’s vision,” she says. She finds the association, like other organizations, is facing the conundrum of recruiting young people who have the energy and ideas but not the time to do the work.
Her advice: “Let’s make the village beautiful and tackle what we can do. Hopefully, that in itself will attract businesses to the area.”
She is gratified by having gained the association’s designation as a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the help of member Mimi Decesaris. She sees it as a major achievement and believes the designation that now makes donations to the association tax deducible opens the CVA to grant opportunities to make Conimicut even more livable.
Ginny will remain on the board and will be listening, watching and contributing, but she has told Lonnie to pull her away when her instinct to direct kicks in.
At a meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Frank Picozzi and State Representatives Joseph Solomon Jr. and Camille Vella-Wilkinson recognized Ginny for her work and contributions to the village with citations. Leslie Derrig was elected to succeed her. Officers include Susanne Jordan, vice president; Gary Van Dine, secretary and Gina Boblitt, treasurer.