Joe Walsh is a leader, a public servant, and a humanitarian with a thoughtful manner and a big heart. His passion for people, desire to serve his community, and popularity in his days in government led The Providence Sunday Journal Magazine to ask: “Doesn’t Anyone Out There Hate this Man”? (Sept. 9, 1979). The newspaper that he delivered as a boy, was then writing stories about him.
Joe grew up in South Providence and attended St. Michael’s School, La Salle Academy, and Providence College. He earned his J.D. from Georgetown University School of Law. Back in Rhode Island, Joe started Lynch, Walsh, and Cobleigh, Ltd. with longtime friends John Lynch and Gerry Cobleigh.
In 1969 at the age of twenty-six, Joe, running as a Democrat, captured the House seat in his Warwick district — long a Republican stronghold. Joe’s affable and reasonable style made him friends on both sides of the aisle, even earning the retiring Republican incumbent’s endorsement when he ran for state senate.
A natural orator, leader, and consensus builder, Senate Majority Whip Walsh was a trailblazer in promoting women’s rights, protecting civil liberties, and reforming the criminal justice system. The latter included his leading role on the Walsh Commission on Criminal Procedures which overhauled the grand jury system and established Rhode Island’s traffic court.
In 1976, Joe launched his successful campaign for mayor of Warwick with a 4,000-person event at the Rocky Point Palladium. By 1977, his first year in office, Warwick was coping with a twenty percent budget deficit. To meet the challenge, Joe instituted a property revaluation and began annual deficit reduction payments, leading Warwick to fiscal stability.
Joe’s approach to governing was smart and imaginative. He made needed cuts and expanded essential services. Joe created the Department of Human Services, presided over the construction of Warwick’s first senior center, increased elderly housing, placed women in powerful government roles, improved the city’s infrastructure, built the Mickey Stevens Sports Complex, and resolved the Warwick teachers’ strike in a marathon 26-hour negotiating session. Not surprisingly, he was re-elected with seventy-seven percent of the vote.
In 1984, following an unsuccessful run for governor, Joe joined the law firm of Tillinghast and Licht, where he became one of the state’s premier lobbyists. Joe continues this work today at Government Strategies, LLC.
In addition to his busy client schedule, Joe continues to serve the public. Most notably, by his twenty-year tenure as the chairman of the Board of Directors of the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC), where he helped shape a small cultural enterprise into one of the nation’s premier touring theaters. In addition, Joe has served as an award-winning chairman of numerous civic, cultural, and charitable organizations and campaigns including the Red Cross, United Way, and the Academic Decathlon.
In all he does, Joe is active, engaged, and imaginative. He listens, provides thoughtful advice, and creates solutions. It’s no wonder when he left the mayor’s office, Joe’s popularity was at an astounding eighty-nine percent. It is still pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t like Joe Walsh.
Joe and his wife, Ginette still reside in Warwick. They have a son, Billy, a daughter, Shana (married to Liam O’Connell), and a grandson, Liam Joseph.
– Gerard P. Cobleigh, Esq, Jennifer Bramley & Patrick T. Conley