Democrat Camille Vella-Wilkinson has lived in Warwick for over 25 years. She came to Rhode Island in 1981 to work as a Navy Officer. She acquired years of experience in Human Resources, Nuclear Emergency Field Response, and Civil Rights. She was appointed as a State Commissioner for the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights in 1999, advocating for the proper enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. Later, Vella-Wilkinson started the Higher & Hire firm, which offered career guidance and diversity training. Her political career started when she was elected to the Warwick City Council for three terms, followed by a directorship for Workforce Investment Act Programs for the Rhode Island Indian Council.
Vella-Wilkinson ran a strong, community-oriented campaign focused on civil rights and working people. She calls on her experience in the Navy to “continue promoting veterans services, benefits, and programs,” according to her website. More locally, Vella-Wilkinson hopes to address brownfields and waterways in Warwick to help secure state resources for remediation. She also is a strong proponent of collective bargaining and small businesses. These values secured Vella-Wilkinson a core voter base of working-class, union workers. In the September 2016 primaries, she easily defeated incumbent State Rep. Eileen Naughton. Upon hearing the news of her win, Villa-Wilkinson remarked to the Warwick Post, “We’ve got to fight the machine, and that’s what we did, we fought the machine.” This mentality carried Vella-Wilkinson to victory in the November election. Receiving 44.7 percent of the vote, Vella-Wilkinson defeated Republican candidate Michael Penta (35.3 percent) and Independent candidates Michael Underwood (17.3 percent) and Andrew Knutton (2.8 percent).