RI’s big shot mayor

Joseph M. Polisena has administered more than 2,000 of 15,000 shots at town vaccination clinics


Everyone in Johnston knows their mayor is a big shot - especially the 2,000 he personally vaccinated.

As a retired nurse and firefighter, throughout the pandemic, Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena has rolled up his sleeves and served on the frontlines fighting the virus.

Johnston Police Chief Joseph Razza announced last week that Polisena would “roll up his sleeves and put his registered nursing skills and medical experiences to work - once again!”

Ever since the Johnston Police and Fire departments began battling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by providing free vaccination clinics, Polisena has personally vaccinated approximately 2,000 of the 15,000-plus residents who have taken advantage of the free offer, according to Razza.

Mayors from across the region praised Polisena’s dedication.

“His efforts are admirable in what he’s done for constituents, and he hasn’t forgotten his roots,” said Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins. Hopkins and Polisena were classmates at Johnston High.

“I guess it’s true what people often say that politicians are always sticking it to their constituents but in this case it’s a noble thing,” joked Warwick Mayor Frank J. Picozzi.

On Monday, Polisena added to his record-setting mark.

Razza said that Polisena was “looking forward to helping vaccinate more Johnstonians” during another highly important POD (Point of Distribution) Clinic inside the 28,000-square-foot Indoor Recreation Center, which offers ample parking and, as it has in previous sessions, ensured the required social distancing.

“From when we began vaccination clinics on Feb. 17, 2021, for residents ages 75 and older, the Mayor has been extremely hands-on and an integral part of POD planning and operations,” Razza emphasized. “The Mayor has served as a vaccinator at every clinic we’ve had throughout the pandemic.”

On Monday, Polisena continued that practice, this time vaccinating children 5-to-11 years old.

Polisena has even gone with Johnston Firefighters and vaccinated residents in the town’s congregate housing facilities like Simmons Village and Allegra Court. He has also administered vaccinations at school-based clinics the town has offered at Johnston High School.

That’s why Razza asked Polisena to join him at the podium after the Chief, Mayor and Deputy Chief Mark Vieira honored around 40 men and women of the Johnston Police Department during a Recognition of Excellence Awards Ceremony.

“Our last award tonight goes to an individual who has selflessly served the community of Johnston with steadfast dedication,” Razza said. “This individual donated professional expertise and countless hours of personal time to the residents of Johnston because of his committed service and devotion to the town. This individual is truly obligated to seeing people stay healthy and saw to it that everyone who wanted to get vaccinated got vaccinated.”

Razza then presented Polisena with a giant syringe and continued: “I’ve never met an individual who was so committee or determined to beating the pandemic and keeping his residents safe as the Mayor. So, on behalf a grateful community - and a proud chief - I present you with this making a difference award.”

There was applause and laughter as Polisena held the inflated syringe.

Razza, though, had one more super special surprise, a personalized plaque that read: “In honor of your leadership of the Town of Johnston through an unprecedented global pandemic and your unwavering commitment to your residents in protecting their health and safety through inclusive and expansive vaccination protocols. Your dedication is recognized and truly appreciated.”

Polisena later said: “I thought it was very nice of Chief Razza to present me with the Johnston Police Department Civilians Awards for Meritorious Acts for administering COVID-19 vaccinations to our residents. It was humbling and very much appreciated. I continue to stand ready to assist the residents of Johnston as much as I can. This is what public service is all about - helping people and their families in a time of need.”

As Razza later noted, while announcing Monday’s clinic: “As he has done time and again, Mayor Polisena is ready to give our residents - as the old adage goes - another highly-important shot in the arm Monday night!”

“I enjoy being able to utilize my opposition as Mayor and as a registered nurse to ensure that the residents of Johnston get vaccinated,” Polisena said. “I was honored to be able to administer vaccinations to so many people, and I stand ready to continue taking care of our resident’s health.”