Robert Flanders is a proud and accomplished Rhode Islander who grew up in a humble middle-class family. When she was not raising the family’s seven children, his mother worked in fast food restaurants, while his father, initially a union steward in a factory assembling planes for the U.S. military, was a salesman for food distributors. Neither of his parents graduated from college.
The oldest of seven children, Flanders experienced the everyday sacrifices and challenges that a working-class family faces. He is inspired to fight for hard-working Rhode Island families as an effective problem solver, someone Rhode Islanders can count on to get things done while collaborating with elected officials from across the political spectrum.
An excellent student-athlete in high school, Flanders was recruited by the Ivy League to play baseball and football; eventually, he chose to attend Brown University on a financial aid scholarship. During his high school, college, and law school days, when he wasn’t studying or competing on the athletic field, Flanders worked in a series of manual labor jobs to help pay for his education: he was a garbage man, a dishwasher, a bagger in a mattress factory, a floor sweeper, a truck driver, a delivery man, and a landscaper, among others. At Brown, he also quarterbacked the football team; set the Ivy League, Brown, and Yale Bowl records for the longest run from scrimmage; was elected to Phi Beta Kappa; captained the baseball team, and was selected to an All-American baseball team. He was then drafted by the Detroit Tigers professional baseball team, for which he played in the minor leagues during the next three summers while attending Harvard Law School.
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Flanders chose to return to Rhode Island, to raise his family here, and to pursue his legal career. While serving as a partner in one of Rhode Island’s oldest and most prestigious law firms, Flanders got his start in public service when he was twice elected as a Town Councilman in his then hometown of Barrington. He also served as a town solicitor, as an executive legal counsel to the governor, and as a special prosecutor for the Judicial Tenure and Discipline Commission. In 1996, after a brilliant career as an outstanding trial and appellate lawyer and after founding and leading his own small business (a litigation law firm) for 10 years, he became one of the first judges selected to Rhode Island’s highest court as a result of the new merit selection process that the voters had recently approved. Over the course of eight and a half years as a Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme, he authored over 400 opinions, ranging from criminal to civil matters. After serving on the highest court in the state, Flanders resumed his private legal practice but also began working on behalf of the children of Rhode Island. For four years he served as the Chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, where he oversaw education policy, including the state’s basic education plan, and instituted a pilot program for pre-kindergarten education, among other path-breaking initiatives.
In 2011, the state government recognized his skills as an effective problem solver and appointed Flanders as the Receiver for the financially troubled City of Central Falls. As the state-appointed Receiver, he led the city through a first-ever bankruptcy restructuring and reorganization process, which resulted in a consensual plan of debt adjustment and recovery for the city that eliminated a six million dollar annual operating deficit, achieved a balanced budget, and saved Central Falls and its taxpayers over $30 million over the next five years.
Throughout his career, in addition to his long record of public service, he has served as a member of numerous charitable boards of directors and commissions, including the Care New England Hospital system, the Brown Leadership Advisory Council, the Providence Performing Arts Center, the Veterans Memorial Auditorium Foundation, and College Unbound, as well his service as the Vice Chairman of the Women & Infants Hospital board, and Chairman of the Greater Providence YMCA.
Flanders, who married his wife, Ann Flanders, when she was 19 and he was 21, has been happily married for 46 years. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.