East Bay bids farewell to longtime public servant

David Bates, who served on planning board, council and at the statehouse, passes away

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A longtime public servant in the East Bay passed away this week.

David Bates, who served on a number of Barrington town boards before spending 22 years in the Rhode Island State Senate, died on Wednesday, March 8, after a brief illness. Mr. Bates, who represented constituents in Barrington and Bristol, was 74 years old.

David Bates brought Olympic license plates to RI.

"It's just tragic," said Patrick Guida, a former Barrington School Committee member and longtime friend of Mr. Bates. "It is very sad news.

"I could tell you why he was not a politician, but in fact a statesman. David was never so much about raising a political flag. He was always about doing what was in the best interest of the community and the state. He was always governing by his own ethical compass."

Mr. Bates served as a member of the Barrington Planning Board from 1968 to 1978 and then won a spot on the Barrington Town Council in 1982. He remained on the council until 1992, and served as the council president from 1984 until 1988. 

He made the jump to the Rhode Island Senate in 1992 and remained an active legislator until Jan. 2015. (He announced in 2014 that he would not seek re-election.)

In his 20-plus years at the statehouse, Mr. Bates worked with both parties on a regular basis and remained committed to serving the best interests of the people of Barrington, Bristol and the rest of Rhode Island.

"That's what it came down to with Dave," said Jan Malik, a Democrat who represented Barrington and Warren in the House for more than 20 years. "That's what made Dave a unique politician. With issues, a lot of times Dave would come over and see me and, Dave, even though he was a Republican and I was a Democrat, he would say this is going to help the people out, and he would sign it.

"We need more Dave Bates at the statehouse."

Barrington Town Council member Steve Primiano said Mr. Bates was a shining example for other public servants.

"Dave Bates exemplified everything that is good about public service," he said. "He unselfishly represented his constituents while avoiding the limelight. His success was due to hard work, a quiet demeanor, and respect for all. I will miss my friend and mentor, but will never forget his advice: 'there is a time for politics and a time for governing.' Dave knew the difference." 

Words of praise rushed in following the news of Mr. Bates's passing.

Ken Block, a constituent and Barrington resident, said "He was well known for his work to make Rhode Island government more accountable but perhaps his most special legacy is how much he cared about his constituents. He was dependable and available."

Mr. Malik said Mr. Bates was also an example for his ability to strike a balance between his political life and his personal life. 

"He was a great family man. He was a great individual," he said. "Dave always put the best interest of the community first. At the end of the day, Dave would look at legislation, he said let's do what's right for the state. It was great working with Dave."

Minority leader Dennis Algiere said Mr. Bates was known for getting answers and solving problems. 

"He worked well with everyone at the statehouse, even where they differed in policy," he said. "He viewed his job as he was hired by the people not just to go to Smith Hill, but to work specifically for them in bridging the gap between citizens and their governments."

Mr. Guida said Mr. Bates was always able to follow the right course.

"Never, ever was there a whiff of anything underhanded. He was so far above that," Mr. Guida added.

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john, robin, rebecca, lezette

We were lucky to spend each working day with this wonderful man. He was not only our boss but our friend. We shared many laughs and he taught us to always do right. He will be missed more than any of us can even imagine.

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