“I like to be in charge. I trained for that for three decades” - Art Weber, Middletown Town Council President
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Art Weber came to Middletown, and later the Middletown Town Council, after a long history of military service.
Weber, who currently serves as Town Council President, recently sat down to reflect on his past and his hopes for our community going forward.
A History of Service
Weber retired to Middletown in 1996 after 32 years in the military. He ended his career as a Colonel in the Marine Corp for the U.S. Naval War College.
He describes his military duty as more than just a career, but a calling.
“I remember as a little boy watching the ships come back from World War II,” Weber reflected. “After a few stops and starts in college, I entered the military.”
After two years living on the island, Weber and his wife, Kathy, decided to settle in Middletown for their retirement, particularly because three years earlier, they had a child late in life. Weber’s wife’s parents lived in Portsmouth and he said they felt it was important to stay close to extended family.
His first year into retirement, Weber decided to get involved with the community. He applied for Middletown Planning Board, was accepted, and shortly after was selected to be chairman of the board.
After 14 years of serving on the planning board as well as serving as the Chairman of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Committee (BRAC), Weber saw a greater shoe to fill for Middletown.
“I became disenchanted with the town council,” said Weber. “There was a leadership vacuum. Some people encouraged me to run to town council, so I did.”
Weber said the president at the time, Christopher Semonelli, was no longer interested in serving that role. Once elected in November 2010, Weber expressed interest in the position, and council voted him as president.
Reflection on a First Term
When asked how his first term has been going, Weber responded that he believes it is going well.
“The one thing I feel very good about is that we have a talented and passionate team,” he said.
He said the successful police and fire labor negotiations could be credited to the Council working together towards a common goal.
Weber identified the upcoming budget as the most challenging issue the council will face in 2012.
“You have a dilemma,” Weber said. “You want to keep your taxes supportable by the community, yet maintain the services that we provide our citizens. There is no appetite this year for a big tax increase.”
Weber pointed out that as a Middletown resident and a local real estate agent, he personally is impacted by the decisions the council make.
He said one area he would like to see improve is how the school department and the town council work together on the budget. The current process is the council provides a dollar amount, and the school committee must make it work, he explained.
Weber said the only solution would be to work on the school budget together, to first determine the school’s needs, then look at the budget to see if there is money to support it.
He does not anticipate that to be a realistic goal.
“If we could work on the budget together, that would be perfect, but quite frankly they don’t want to do that,” he said. “It’s like we are invading their space.”
Weber said he would also like to restart the conversations about consolidation of resources across the municipalities. He said it was unfortunate that the only neighbor interested was Newport.
“Intuitively, you have to ask why do we have three systems,” Weber said. “At some point the state may mandate regionalization. We need to take care of our destiny.”
When asked about the future, Weber said he would like to run for council again and hopes to maintain his position as council president.
“I like to be in charge,” he said with a smile.