Letter to my Neighbors
My name is Terri Cortvriend. When people ask, “How do you pronounce your last name?” I tell them it rhymes with “short friend”. I am a mother, a small business owner, and for the past eleven years, a local public servant. I care deeply about our community, our local economy, preserving our farms, beaches and waterways, supporting our seniors aging in place, and most importantly the future of our children. I am asking for your support in reelecting me as your State Representative of District 72 serving Middletown and Portsmouth.
I grew up in Miami, Florida, a comparatively large metropolitan area. My mom was one of the first female police officers in Dade County and my dad was a crime scene investigator, also with the Dade County Public Safety Department. I attended public school and a state college. I grew up spending weekends at our family’s rustic fishing cabin in Key Largo. In my early 20s, I fell in love with sailing and raced with a team of women from a yacht racing association while living on a boat that I owned. Miami was a wild and crazy place in the 80s, and I was looking for an opportunity to get out. In pursuit of something different, I landed a job as crew on a large private yacht. The idea of working outside in the fresh air and sunshine with an opportunity to travel was very appealing. I lobbied the captain to work on deck, but was told that the owner didn’t want to see “girls” outside and demanded that we handle the domestic duties, so I was relegated to the position of crew cook. However, that job was just a starting point that allowed me to start accruing “sea time” towards my Captain’s license.
My new career path took me to the Caribbean, down south to Venezuela, north to Maine, and all along the East Coast of the United States. I met my future husband Andy on the docks in St. Thomas. Eventually, we began running yachts together as a team, and we were inseparable from that time forward. We married in 1987. While we spent winters in the Caribbean, Aquidneck Island became home base in the summer months. In the late 1980’s, I achieved my goal of obtaining my Captain’s license and also earned my private pilot’s license, flying out of Newport State Airport.
Having seen so much of the world, it was easy for us to choose Aquidneck Island as the place we would make our home, start our family, and build our business. We were attracted to the small town character and loved the idea of living on an island. We initially lived in Newport when we started our small business, Ocean Link, Inc., but after our daughter Savanna was born and our business began to grow, we rented a shop in Melville and bought a modest two-bedroom home in Portsmouth. As we worked to build a business out of our years of experience on boats, we decided to fill a void and focus on sanitation systems. At the time, Narragansett Bay became one of the country’s first No-Discharge Zones. Ocean Link was well positioned to be the expert in helping boat owners retrofit their yachts with tanks to become compliant. We also worked with DEM to help them develop a training and inspection program for marinas. I see Narragansett Bay as our state’s finest asset and protecting it is critical to our way of life. I will work to discourage any development of offshore drilling off our coastline.
When my daughter started elementary school in Portsmouth, I thought it was important to be involved in our school system. While most moms were involved with fundraising for the PTA, I always preferred to work with the kids. For several years I volunteered weekly to read with students who were struggling readers. When Savanna was in 4th grade, her class was involved in an elaborate and inspiring class project referred to as “The Bus. It was a depiction in prose and graphics of the Civil Rights movement and its founders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. The first school committee meeting that I ever attended was when her class received recognition for their project. Coincidentally, this happened at the same time that a fractious debate was beginning to brew in Portsmouth around school funding and property taxes. I realized that I could have a voice and advocate for our child and other children by running for School Committee.
In 2004, the Portsmouth community elected me to my first four-year term. Less than a year later, my family experienced our greatest challenge: doctors diagnosed my husband with stage four kidney cancer. For fifteen months, I focused on caring for Andy and Savanna, while also assuming full management of Ocean Link and working as a member of the School Construction Committee to build the new gym at Portsmouth High School. Throughout this difficult time, my friends and neighbors blessed me with their support, and I learned that we live in a very caring community. These experiences feed my desire to give back, serving as your State Representative.
Andy passed away, and as I slowly emerged from mourning, I remembered his boundless optimism and adopted it as my own. I picked up where I left off, serving my neighbors with renewed determination and purpose. I carried on with what was now my business: we survived the economic crash of 2008, and thanks to the hard work and dedication of my team we grew into a larger space in 2017. I have never lost sight of how this situation could have gone the other way and led to financial ruin. We were fortunate to have health insurance, but my personal experience is central to my belief that healthcare should be a right in our country, not a privilege, and that no one should be forced into bankruptcy due to an illness.
I served on the Portsmouth School Committee for ten years, and in 2014, I became its Chair. The district has been successful in implementing smart management practices and financial controls that have resulted in fiscal stability. I've gained experience developing budgets, negotiating collective-bargaining agreements, and cultivating teams that resolve differences and work towards common goals. In addition to my work on the school committee, I have also gained experience and knowledge while serving on the Portsmouth Water and Fire District, the Portsmouth Economic Development Committee, the Portsmouth Tank Farm Redevelopment Advisory Committee, and more recently on the board of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce. In 2018, I was my honor to be elected as your RI State House Representative for District 72.
In my personal life I have been blessed to have found a supportive partner of eight years, Chuck Perry of Middletown. The two of us now enjoy spending time with our ortuguese Water Dog and our blended family of 3 young adults who are all busy building their own lives.
We are all made up by the totality of our experiences. I have shared with you my life experiences so that you can better know what drives me. Looking forward, these are the initiatives that I believe are important.
On Education: As the former Chair of the Portsmouth School Committee, I understand that our community’s value is closely tied to the quality of our schools, and that reductions in state aid have put stress on both the Middletown and Portsmouth School Districts. I advocate for a review of the funding formula. I work to continue the progress that has been made toward reinventing high school in order to provide our children with professional and technical experiences that connect them to their future career paths.
On Economic Development: The relationship between the State and our local defense industry is of critical importance. Our State must make investments that support our naval installations, to increase the military value of Aquidneck Island to the Navy.
As a local business owner in the marine trades (marine trades cover a wide range of industries located in different economic sectors, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and art, entertainment and recreation), I recognize this industry is one of our State’s unique economic strengths that we should be supporting for growth through workforce development, creating more good paying jobs on the Island. In turn, I believe that a strong local economy supports our hospitality and tourism industries.
I will advocate to use our natural resources to grow renewable energy opportunities, such as offshore wind turbines and solar farms, as a potential part of growing our green economy.
On our Environment: We are the stewards of our environment, and as such it is our responsibility to safeguard our water supply through management of our storm water, an issue that is oft neglected. As residents of a coastal community, we are vulnerable to sea level rise, and we need to be planning on how we will address this challenge at local and State levels.
As your District 72 Representative, I am accessible to you, my constituents. In the next months, I will be in your neighborhood knocking on doors and attending community events. I look forward to meeting you and discussing whatever concerns you may have. I look forward to a positive re-election campaign focused on you and your family. Please check out my website, TerriCortvriend.com, and feel free to reach out to me by phone (401-472-4789) or email at Rep-Cortvriend@rilegislature.gov.