Executive Director of Mayor-elect Brett Smiley’s Transition Team

Watch Emily Ward Crowell Help the City She Loves Rise Above Its Challenges


The late nights and constant pressure of staffer life aren’t for everyone – and if it weren’t for the support of URI faculty and a stint working in the state senate, the former tattoo artist-in-training Emily Ward Crowell may not have found her calling in politics. 

Now, Crowell is helping to select Mayor-elect Brett Smiley’s dream team as executive director of his transition. Crowell first worked alongside Smiley when he was Chief Operating Officer in City Hall, before she became a top staffer for former Mayor Jorge Elorza and then Commissioner of Education Angelica Infante-Green. “When Brett decided to launch his campaign, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that journey,” says Crowell.

“The Mayor-elect has been clear that he wants to build a team that cares about our community and reflects our beautiful city.” This includes staffers who are “heavy on work ethic and light on their own ego,” problem solvers and big thinkers, and, Crowell says, “it’s also incredibly important for me as a woman in this field to find female talent and provide them with a path to growth and the support they need.” 

Providence is at the precipice of big changes. Crowell explains that an agreement negotiated 20 years ago with the colleges for payments in lieu of taxes along with a deal made 10 years ago with unions to suspend certain pension costs are both expiring. “Smiley has experience running budgets of this size and fixing problems of this magnitude. I hope to support him throughout his time in office so that we can stabilize the city finances long-term and make us less dependent on residents’ property tax payments.”

Part of Crowell’s role has also been in taking the city’s temperature throughout Smiley’s campaign with surveys. “We need a City Hall that is responsive, inclusive, and provides the highest quality city services that we can offer because that is the role of a municipality.”

In case she isn’t busy enough, Crowell also served as vice president of RI NOW helping to pass the Reproductive Privacy Act and continues to advocate for affordable reproductive care access.

Reason for Optimism: “The City of Providence. She’s an amazing city full of the best restaurants and the most talented artists. We are a diverse community and my optimism starts with what we have to teach each other. I’m honored and excited to be a part of this next chapter of her history.”

Twitter: @malee_ward


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