Michael P. Mello, who left his post as chief of staff to Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline earlier this year, is about to take a prime new job — as GTECH’s senior director for global government relations. He is slated to begin January 2.
The new post marks a considerable step upward for Mello, a 40-year-old Bristol native. He served as Cicilline’s chief of staff from January 2003 until last June, when he left to take the presidency of the Rhode Island Independent Higher Education Association, which represents a number of local colleges and universities.
Mello says he was not involved in devising the tax stabilization agreement, announced in June 2003, that led GTECH to move its headquarters from West Greenwich to a new, recently completed office building across from the Providence Place Mall.
Cicilline spokeswoman Karen Southern says Carol Grant, the city’s director of operations, John Simmons, director of administration, and city solicitor Joseph Fernandez took the lead in devising the tax stabilization agreement. An oversight committee created by the City Council was also involved in the process, and Mello was not a part of the committee, Mello and Southern said. Mello says he was part of the mayoral team that worked on convincing GTECH to stay in Rhode Island, although he calls that process one mostly led by the state.
While critics rapped the tax stabilization agreement as a sweetheart deal, Cicilline defended it as a source of economic development in Providence. In 2004, he told the Phoenix, “It’s the first office building that will be built in the City of Providence in 13 years. It’s the world headquarters of a multinational corporation, a Fortune 500 company. It will bring almost a thousand high-paying jobs into the city, which bring with it a whole infusion of economic activity,” including spending on restaurants, nightlife, parking, and housing. “And then you add to that the thousands and thousands of people who will be at the GTECH facility during the course of the year, again contributing to the economic life of our city.”
As it turns out, one of those people will be Mello, who says he was attracted to the lottery systems maker by “the ability to travel and to learn about the technology business and government relations all around the country and around the world.” He calls the new job “a great opportunity to expand my experiences outside of Rhode Island,” and he says he likes how GTECH is based in Rhode Island.
Mello formerly served as a district director for US Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and as chief of staff for general treasurer Paul Tavares. He served three terms as a town councilor in Bristol, winning his first election at 23, after having hit a raised manhole cover while driving in the town. The experience led him to attend municipal meetings and sparked a growing interest in politics, he says.
In his new role, Mello says, he will be working under Donald R. Sweitzer, GTECH’s senior vice president for global business development and public affairs, dealing with government relations and government-relations consultants throughout the states and countries where GTECH has business or is looking to expand business.