Town Official Q&A with Henry Oppenheimer, former Richmond Town Council President

Town Official Q&A with Henry Oppenheimer, former Richmond Town Council President

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Where have you lived before moving to Richmond?

“I lived in Indiana for a while, then I went to work at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, for a while, then I taught two years at what is now called Binghamton University in Binghamton New York, then I came here in ’87 to ‘Camp’ University of Rhode Island. I like to call it a camp.”

When did you retire from the University Rhode Island?

“I think technically, my retirement date must have been June of ’16. The last I taught [finance] was December, ’15.”

When did you go on the Richmond Town Council?

“In ’92.” (A council member for more than 23 years, Oppenheimer is the town’s longest-serving councilor.)

What did you find rewarding about serving on the council?

“When I started, we were in tough financial shape, and so being able to use my skill set in finance, obviously, and common sense and strategic abilities to really make Richmond a better place, a really good place for people to live.”

Did you find your degrees in psychology were also useful?

“They did come in handy, because it helped you understand how people were thinking. They told you what they were thinking — but how they were thinking and how people felt and all of that — because when you’re on the council, you end up having a reasonable amount of interaction with the citizens and with other public officials, especially with Chariho.”

Can you talk about some of the challenges you faced on the council?

“A major challenge we always had was financial. Richmond has a limited tax base. Early on and throughout, it was a relatively rapidly-growing town, a lot more in the early years, in the ‘90s and the early 2000s, before the 2008 fiasco nationally. We frequently had Chariho budgets, because of our growth, that were quite a challenge to fund. Chariho budgets sometimes increased our budget by a considerable amount of money… We not only had to fund Chariho, which was approximately 80 percent of our budget, but stuff the people needed. When I started out, we barely had a police department and it wasn’t 24 hours a day. We had a very small public works department. And so, we really needed to grow them, personnel and equipment, and those things are expensive. I think we did it in a careful way, but in a good way.”

What are you doing now that you’ve retired?

“Amy and I love to travel, and last year we went to Barcelona for nearly a week, and then we took a two-week tour of three national parks, and Omaha, Nebraska. Omaha was there so I could get off my bucket list going to a Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting…Both Sam and I are Berkshire Hathaway [stock] owners…I’m the treasurer of my temple, [Temple Sinai, Cranston] so I’m on their finance committee, go to the Executive Board meetings monthly, go to the Board meetings monthly… A lot of gardening and all of that. I just bought one of those mini greenhouses to get the plants started before planting season.”

More about Henry

Born: “July 8, 1949, in Buffalo New York — at Children’s Hospital, if you really need to know.”

Married: No. Significant other is Amy, since 2012.

Children: A son, Sam, who works as a journalist in Tulsa, OK.

Education: Kenmore West Senior High School, Kenmore N.Y.; University of Rochester, Bachelor of Psychology, Master of Science in psychology, Purdue University, Indiana; Ph.D in Management (Finance), Purdue University.

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