PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – After 1,000 days in office, Gov. Gina Raimondo is reflecting back on her hardest day, the biggest misconceptions about her, and governing while female. But she isn’t quite ready to give herself a letter grade.
“I’d say incomplete,” Raimondo, a first-term Democrat, said in an exclusive one-on-one with Eyewitness News. “I want to be judged at the end of my time. It’s a work in progress. I’d give us an A+ for effort.”
Raimondo points to her focus on jobs and the economy — wooing 18 companies, among them General Electric and Johnson & Johnson, to Rhode Island — as some of the progress she’s made. She says the Wexford Innovation Center that broke ground in Providence last month will bring jobs for all types of people: chemists, janitors, accountants and construction workers.
“One-thousand days ago we didn’t have America’s first and only offshore wind farm,” she said. “We didn’t have an unemployment rate that was below the national average. We didn’t have programs like PTECH that are giving hundreds of kids the chance to have a good job. We didn’t have 100 bridges under construction and better roads.”
“I think it’s undeniable Rhode Island is a better place and in better shape now than 1,000 days ago,” she said.
But the good comes with the bad. Benny’s shut its doors. There was the botched rollout of UHIP, the state’s massively expensive new benefits system, and the “Cooler and Warmer” tourism debacle. The Superman building still lays dark and vacant. Raimondo agrees the skyscraper is a physical reminder of the work that still needs to be done.
Raimondo said the media blitz to mark her 1,000th day on Monday – including a multi-city tour, the announcement of an expanded job-training program and the celebration of T.F. Green’s newly expanded runway – was meant to be a time to show Rhode Islanders what she and her team have been working on, but also to reflect.
“I’m taking some kids in the foster care system out for ice cream,” she said. “I don’t know if that will be a celebration – I expect they’re going to tell me things I need to do a better job of. So I need to hear that.”
The governor is candid about the good days and the bad days. When asked what her hardest day in office so far was, Raimondo recalled the problems with the UHIP computer benefits system, saying it was the day she had to let several seniors staffers go.
“Somebody’s who’s a leader needs to get the honest assessment from the team, and I just wasn’t getting that,” she said. “And so I learned and I paused and I said, ‘Why not?'”
Along with the hurdles every governor faces, Raimondo believes she’s been scrutinized differently during her time in office because she is Rhode Island’s first female governor.
“I still get questions, ‘Well, what are you, governor? Are you a hard-charging executive or are you a caring mom?'” she said. “And the answer, of course, is I am both. And that’s not the sort of question that you often hear of male executives.” She chalked the questions up to curiosity, and to people being uncomfortable.
Another question Raimondo gets: What does she personally gain from her position?
“I had a really good job which I loved before doing this,” she said. “I have a young family – the demands of public service are pretty intense and I love it. It’s an honor to serve. I think there’s honor in public service, but there’s no angle. It is what it is.”
As for her next 1,000 days? Raimondo said she will seek re-election in 2018, but won’t formally declare until sometime next year.