In the eighth-grade, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin had no idea what he wanted to do for a career, much like the eighth-grade students he was speaking to on the ‘Patriots’ team at Park View Middle School.
“I was pretty much doing what you all are doing, but without the selfies,” he said. “In high school, I was still thinking about it. I thought I might be a teacher like my dad, or maybe a lawyer. I grew up in Pawtucket, went to school there and lived my entire life there. I still do. I went to school at URI and my first major was in psychology and then in teaching.” It was two friends who turned Kilmartin on to a somewhat unexpected path.
“Two of my friends were applying to the police department and I was working in a supermarket at the time,” he said.
Kilmartin’s friends encouraged him to apply too, and he did, ultimately being the only one of the three who applied. When the test results came out, Kilmartin’s name was 15th on the list and two years later he got a call to go to the police academy and had to make a decision as to whether or not this was a job he would like to do.
“I loved the city, I thought I would enjoy doing the job. I liked protecting people, and I decided to go into the police academy,” he said.
He spent the next 24 years on the force, working 14 years on the third shift, which he enjoyed.
“I worked through the ranks there and became the captain. I worked the streets, I was a supervisor, an administrator, and I worked in the prosecution division,” he said. “At one point a judge encouraged me to go for a law degree. The LSATs were being given at Brown University, so I said, ‘Let’s see what happens,’ and I took it and passed.”
After considering the new, unaccredited law program at Roger Williams University and deciding to attend there in the hopes that the program would gain its accreditation during his time there, and received his law degree.
“When I had six years at the police department I decided to run in my first election for state representative, where I was elected to vote on issues that are important to you at the state house,” he said. My first swearing-in ceremony was on January 1, 1991, and my last day in office will be on January 1, 2019.”
He encouraged the students to consider all options and opportunities when presented to them, no matter how old they are at the time.
“Don’t ever say it’s too late to do something,” he said. “If you have a passion, don’t let anyone tell you not to follow your passion, whether you want to be a nurse, an electrician, or a plumber. Whatever you want to do, follow your heart.”
Kilmartin told the students that he’s enjoyed all of his jobs.
“When I was 13 I was working as a soda jerk in a pharmacy, I was working in a supermarket, and now I’m the Attorney General. Every job I’ve had has been hard, and I’m not saying that I don’t have to work hard, but I am lucky that every job I’ve had, I’ve loved and I have had a passion for. I smile on my way to work every day,” he said.
Kilmartin began to consider running for Attorney General in 2009.
“My older brother said that I should consider running for Attorney General, and my wife said, ‘Remember when you said you’d never run for that job?’ Well, you’re never too old to learn a lesson, and you should never say never,” he told the students.
In 2010 Kilmartin ran and won the office, which is limited to two, four-year terms, which will end at the end of this calendar year.
“I don’t know just what I’ll be doing after this, but whatever it is, I can promise you it’ll be something I have a passion for,” he told the students.
He spoke a bit about the role of an Attorney General and discussed some of his more memorable cases. Kilmartin also talked about the Rhode Island fingerprint database, which exists, containing almost one million sets of fingerprints and why it is used.
When asked what suggestions he would have for those interested in running for office in the future, Kilmartin emphasized going door to door, meeting people, and learning what is important to them. He also recommended attending ethnic festivals as a means of not only meeting people but as a means of connecting with them, trying new foods, and learning new cultures. He talked about the importance of personal communication, using face-to-face methods in addition to things like email and social media. He also reminded the students that things such as punctuality and professionalism matter very much.
As he concluded his presentation, he encouraged students to always ask for advice from those they trust when considering taking a new path, including family, friends, teachers and guidance counselors.
He told a favorite story from one past presentation to a fifth-grade class.
“A fifth-grader asked if I was rich,” he said. “I told him that if rich meant he had a lot of money, then the answer was no. If rich meant that I had enough money to put a roof over my head, to put food on my table, to give me a car to get me to and from work, a family who loves me, who I love back and true best friends and the best job that I enjoy going to every day, then yes, I am very rich. Sometimes you don’t measure rich in dollars and cents.”