Anticipating Departures, President Ruggerio Announces Senior Staff Changes
Bissaillon to serve as chief of staff, Verdi as chief legal counsel
STATE HOUSE – President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio has announced several upcoming staff changes. Jake Bissaillon will serve as chief of staff upon the departure of Stephen Iannazzi, who is leaving for a job in the private sector. Nicole M. Verdi, Esq. will serve as chief legal counsel upon the departure of Richard G. Sahagian, who is retiring after more than three decades of state service.
“First and foremost, I want to wish Stephen and Richard well,” said President Ruggerio. “I am fortunate to have had them by my side throughout my tenure as Senate President. Stephen and Richard have provided me with trusted counsel, assisted the Senate in developing important public policies, and helped to navigate our state through this present pandemic.”
Iannazzi previously served as special assistant to the senate majority leader when President Ruggerio held that position. In that role, Iannazzi developed and managed a legislative portfolio that included the establishment of the I-195 Commission, several statewide recycling programs, and new laws on animal rights. As chief of staff, he has helped shepherd many of President Ruggerio’s priorities into law, including the creation of the Opioid Stewardship Fund, increasing access to Narcan, and expanding the apprenticeship model to non-traditional trades such as IT and pharmaceutical techs.
Sahagian was first appointed to his post under Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. During his tenure, the body considered and passed legislation on a number of high-profile policy positions that often-withstood constitutional scrutiny by state and federal courts. Among these efforts was the legalization of same sex marriage, enactment of Justice Reinvestment, and the state’s expansion of gaming.
Jake Bissaillon will replace Stephen Iannazzi, who has worked for President Ruggerio since 2004. Bissaillon currently serves as legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey. He earned his law degree from Roger Williams University School of Law and graduated from Providence College with a B.A. in Political Science and a Master’s in Business Administration.
“Jake brings extraordinary wisdom and insight to the Senate,” said President Ruggerio. “He has provided invaluable guidance to the leadership team and to all of my colleagues in the Senate. He has helped us to navigate the most complex issues with ingenuity and tireless work ethic.”
Prior to joining the Senate staff in 2017, Bissaillon worked as a policy analyst, then deputy communications director, for the Rhode Island House of Representatives. He previously served as chief of staff to Providence City Council President Michael A. Solomon.
“I am grateful for this opportunity,” said Bissaillon. “The Rhode Island Senate, under the leadership of President Ruggerio and Leader McCaffrey, has articulated a bold agenda for Rhode Island’s working families. I will work tirelessly to help them actuate it.”
Nicole Verdi will replace Richard G. Sahagian, who is retiring after more than three decades of state service. Verdi currently serves as deputy chief of staff to Governor Gina Raimondo. Before joining the Governor’s Office, she worked as an attorney at Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C. in Providence.
“Nicole brings a wealth of knowledge to the Senate and a deep commitment to improving the lives of Rhode Islanders,” said President Ruggerio. “She is an asset to this state, and I look forward to relying upon her trusted counsel as the Senate navigates this pandemic and considers an array of legislative proposals to rebuild Rhode Island.”
Prior to beginning her law practice, Verdi clerked for Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg. She has served as president of the RWU Law Alumni Association and Board Co-Chair of a local non-profit, Youth-in-Action. During law school, Verdi worked as a domestic violence shelter advocate for the Women’s Resource Center.
“I am excited to continue serving the State of Rhode Island in this new role,” said Verdi. “The Rhode Island Senate has embarked on an ambitious agenda that will cultivate meaningful changes in the lives of every Rhode Islander. It is an honor to help lead these efforts, and I’m grateful to Senate President Ruggerio for the opportunity to work for this honorable body.”
President Ruggerio also announced that Joseph Masino will join the Senate’s senior staff as deputy chief of staff. Masino presently serves as manager of boards and commissions for Governor Gina Raimondo and previously served as legislative liaison for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. He has extensive experience in public policy and holds a Master of Public Administration from Roger Williams University and bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island. Masino is a former chairman of the United Way of Rhode Island Young Leaders Circle, and, as a lifelong Rhode Islander, he looks forward to working with the Senate on initiatives that move the state forward.