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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In a break from tradition in recent decades, Gov. Dan McKee has named former Providence Police Commander Thomas Verdi to lead the state’s Department of Revenue.
McKee announced the new hire Thursday, saying Verdi’s 35 years in the Providence Police Department would be a “tremendous asset” to the state agency that oversees a host of governmental functions, including tax policy, the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles and regulating the gambling industry.
“I’m pleased to nominate Tom for this important position and know his management experience will serve him well,” McKee said in a statement.
Verdi, who resigned from the city police department last year, called the nomination an “honor and privilege.”
“I look forward to both the challenge and opportunity of this new role,” he said in a statement.
The nomination must be confirmed by the R.I. Senate, where Verdi’s daughter — Nicole Verdi — served as legal counsel before leaving to join the wind farm company, Ørsted.
Commander Verdi’s nomination nonetheless came as a surprise to many in state government, as his background in law enforcement breaks from a tradition over the past three administrations of hiring people with finance backgrounds for the high-ranking cabinet position.
Verdi will take over from former director Guillermo Tello, who left the post last summer to rejoin the U.S. Treasury Department, where he worked before coming to Rhode Island.
Prior to Tello’s leadership, Jim Thorsen briefly served as revenue director under former Gov. Gina Raimondo before moving over to director of the R.I. Department of Administration when McKee became governor. In addition to working at the financial services giant State Street in Boston, Thorsen held various finance positions in multiple government agencies, including at the U.S. Treasury.
Thorsen’s predecessor was Mark Furcolo, who joined the Revenue Department after working in leadership positions at financial technology companies in the private sector. Furcolo became head of R.I. Lottery after the former director, Gerry Aubin, retired in 2020.
The four previous revenue directors included Rob Hull, a private equity pro, who worked for years as the chief financial officer at Providence Equity Partners. He succeeded David Sullivan — a former Gov. Lincoln Chafee pick — who previously worked for almost a decade in the R.I. Division of Taxation.
Before Sullivan, the well-respected government official Rosemary Booth Gallogly led the revenue department after nearly a decade working as the state’s budget officer. She took over from Gary Sasse, who become the first revenue director when he helped create the standalone agency out of the Department of Administration under the former Gov. Donald Carcieri administration.
Asked about Verdi’s appointment, Sasse said he didn’t know the commander’s background, adding the department plays a crucial role in state government and requires strong leadership.
“The revenue department has several missions, but two of the most important are the state maximizes the money that’s due through taxation and the second is to recommend policies that are fair, equitable and competitive,” Sasse said. “To accomplish those things requires a deep understanding of tax policy and tax administration.”
For his part, McKee highlighted Verdi has a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Rhode Island. But the remainder of the former policeman’s professional career was focused entirely on law enforcement.
He received a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University before spending more than three decades raising through the ranks of the Providence Police Department, finishing his career as commanding officer of the Uniform Division.
Eli Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.
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