Column: The mayors among us

Joe-SackI am not the only mayor of Rye. There are many people who don’t hold the formal title, but who serve as unofficial leaders of our great city. I see them in my daily life in Rye, they are my neighbors, my kids’ coaches, the folks next to me at the breakfast counter. Through their extraordinary kindness, likeability and can-do spirit, these everyday mayors are the true glue that binds our community together.

Al Vitiello can be found holding court most mornings at the corner table in the window at Dock Deli. But that’s not to say that Al is regal or unapproachable. There’s hardly a man, woman or child who passes through the front door of Dock Big Al doesn’t know by name and greet with a kind word. Al treats my kids specially, like his own two children, but that is not unusual. On the odd day when Mr. Al is not in his chair, my youngest daughter is disappointed, but will sit in his spot and laugh because she has usurped the throne. A builder by trade, Al is married to the lovely Daniela, who works in the Rye schools. Al volunteers on the Planning Commission and the Golf Club Strategic Committee. But the true testament to this man’s role and reputation is evidenced by a homemade poster board sign that hangs above Dock’s old pay phone, “We heart Al.”

Frank Gadaleta knows a lot of manly things that somehow escaped my sphere of knowledge—how to jerry-rig a sump pump, how to siphon gasoline from a car using merely a plastic tube and human suction, and how to assemble and jump start a generator. But what really sets Frank apart on Thorne Place—where he is a third-generation resident—is his total generosity in sharing this skill and knowledge with his neighbors in times of need. Frank was cool under pressure during Hurricane Sandy and managed to provide assistance to many on our beloved cul-de-sac and beyond. Frank is married to Caroline, and both have become dear friends to me and Kerri; our families grew together. An attorney by profession, Frank is also a dedicated softball coach, managing both of his girls’ teams, so it’s a good thing that we live next to Disbrow Park. And it’s a good thing Rye has men like Frank.

Jennifer Boyle is an understated dynamo. She gets things done, but she makes it look easy. Aside from raising three beautiful daughters in partnership with her husband Ed, an old Regis classmate of mine, Jenn is fully committed to ensuring the Rye schools are second to none. She works tirelessly on many school committees and always steps up to put her money where her mouth is. Count on Jenn to have a “Yes” placard firmly mounted in her front yard during budget school season, and she is ready to replace it no matter how many times it is knocked down by a cowardly opponent of free speech. One of the Boyle girls was recently elected mayor of her Osborn class. That’s not surprising; she’s got good genes and a strong female role model in the home.

Sarah Ball is married to Andy, my former colleague on the City Council, but it has become clear to me who the real politician in the family is. There was a time this spring when everywhere I turned, there was Sarah involved in something in the community. One day she was organizing a children’s scavenger hunt on the Village Green for the Lion’s Club, the next day she was in a cocktail dress as a host of the Osborn parents social, the day after that she was getting her hands dirty as coach of her older daughter’s softball team. I had to smile when I heard Sarah jawing with the umpire about balls and strikes—she was right. It’s not usually the moms who are the coaches in girls’ sports—mostly it’s the dads—and it’s nice for that competitive spirit to be taught from mother to daughter. Plus, Sarah had her team do the best chants, including “bubble-gum, bubble-gum, chew, chew, chew! We think the Hornets are a mighty fine crew!” Three cheers for Sarah.

Jim Richardson is a life-long Rye resident who is one of the most upbeat and well liked people I know. Jim and I coached the Scrappers little league team together for a couple years, and there was no doubt why we had the best hitters. It wasn’t just that Jim arrived an hour early to every game, setting up the pitching machine so the kids could have extra batting practice. It was also that Jim was constantly cheering and encouraging the players at every turn, giving them both confidence and enjoyment. Jim put this boundless positive energy to work on his own behalf to successfully battle an illness not too long ago and he used that same enthusiasm to spearhead his campaign this year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Man of the Year.” Jimmy was a true winner in raising much needed funds for cancer research. Jim also has a winning family in wife Maria and three terrific kids. A chef by training, Jim is poised to open Molly’s Midland Market this summer. I have no doubt Rye will visit him because his sandwiches are the best. But folks will also flock to the store because Jimmy is the best.

These are just a handful of the many mayors among us. Do you know an everyday mayor? Tell me about it. jsack@sacklawfirm.com.

 

The Council Corner is a new 

bi-weekly column which will 

alternate amongst the seven 

members of the Rye City Council. The next installment is scheduled to run on July 11.