Taveras was among the site's beneficiaries.

Two years ago, when Congressman Patrick Kennedy abruptly announced his retirement, pulling Cicilline into the Congressional race and leaving the mayor's office open, Jerzyk fielded calls from several potential candidates eager to succeed Cicilline. But he went all-in on the lawyer and housing court judge whose only previous political experience was a failed run for Congress in 2000.

Jerzyk quietly helped clear the field through conversations with any potential opponents who might have competed with Taveras for support on the East Side and the South Side, helping create a three-way Democratic primary with Councilman John Lombardi and House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino, two Italian-Americans from the same Federal Hill neighborhood.

Taveras enlisted Lauren Nocera, one of the state's best-known progressive organizers, to run the campaign and allowed Jerzyk to work behind the scenes on strategy. "Matt is just exceptional in everything that he does," Nocera says. "He has so many tools in his tool box and his ability to multitask and think on the fly is just exceptional. It's all I can say."

Taveras comfortably won the primary and then cruised to victory in the general election, becoming the first Latino mayor of Providence. There was some question as to whether Jerzyk would take a job in the administration: he had settled into a prominent position as a plaintiff's attorney in a local law firm, DeLuca & Weizenbaum, and some weren't keen on the bomb-throwing blogger sitting in on meetings.

But he took the gig, trading in the megaphone for an iPhone that buzzes endlessly throughout the day. He chopped off the ponytail near the end of law school and now keeps dry-cleaned shirts and suit jackets in his corner office on the second floor of City Hall.

But the suggestion that he has simply become a suit or a bureaucrat infuriates Jerzyk. He admits that he was hurt last year when some of his closest friends in the labor community labeled him a sellout for backing the mayor's decision to hand out pink slips to every teacher in the city. The way he sees it, for the first time, community organizers have an activist in City Hall who has an open door policy and is willing to listen to all ideas: good or bad, left or right.

And while he may be a bit more polished, Jerzyk remains outspoken, his friends say. "Somebody has to call it like they see it," Nocera said. "I think Matt still does that. Just with less f-bombs."

But his new role means that, from time to time, he has to help muzzle the same crowd he might have rallied arm-in-arm with — or at least sympathized with — only a few years ago. Last fall, an angry resident showed up at a Council meeting with signs to protest, among other things, car taxes, the city's finances, pot holes, and Taveras's unborn baby.

Jerzyk stepped in to have a conversation with the protestor, who wanted nothing to do with the guy in the suit. He explained the city's stance on several issues and politely thanked him for showing up. No bombs were thrown. No blogs posted. The talk may have not been completely productive, but a more mature Jerzyk, the guy with a remarkable ability to both calm and rally a crowd, was on full display.

Call it the beginning of his evolution. The new Matt Jerzyk starts fewer fires. And even puts out a few.

< prev  1  |  2  | 
  Topics: News Features , Politics, Service Employees International Union, elections,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   MATT JERZYK GOES TO CITY HALL  |  April 18, 2012
    Not long after helping David Cicilline win election as mayor of Providence nearly a decade ago, Matt Jerzyk, then a ponytailed activist and budding political operative, made a decision that has come to define his place in the rough-and-tumble world of local politics.
  •   HERE'S THE ESSENCE OF RHODE ISLAND  |  January 24, 2012
    Long after you've left the state in search of greener pastures and cheaper taxes, there will come a time when you have to explain to a child, lover, friend, or therapist why you chose to attend school in Rhode Island.
  •   GAMING: THE NEXT LEVEL  |  November 16, 2011
    Remember the days when being a video game champion meant having the high score on Pac-Man at your local arcade?
  •   WE THE PEOPLE DON'T LIKE WASHINGTON  |  September 07, 2011
    If you can't quite figure out where Brian Crowley and his buddies stand on the issues, neither can they. All they know is that they love America, the First Amendment, and public access television.
    Tucked away in the most forgotten neighborhood in Providence, a little piece of the city's colorful political history sits on its last legs.

 See all articles by: DANIEL MCGOWAN