On Election Day, Vito Perillo a 93-year-old World War II veteran, upset an incumbent Monmouth County mayor who was seeking a second term. Mayor-elect Perillo has been working since he was nine years old and says that the key to his longevity is having kept busy his entire life. Now he enters a new phase in his long and rich life – that of Mayor of Tinton Falls, New Jersey.
Mr. Perillo was born in 1924, in the Bronx, New York. During his life he has seen Babe Ruth play at Yankee Stadium and served our country in U.S. Navy during the Second World War as part of ‘The Greatest Generation.’ He isn’t the oldest mayor in the country; that honor belongs to Charles Edwin Long, the Mayor of Booneville, Kentucky, who, at age 94 is one year older.
Mr. Perillo became interested in running once it appeared that the incumbent candidate might run unopposed. Believing people should always have a choice when it comes to elections, Mr. Perillo began his campaign. A widower, he lost his wife Mae in 2013, after 64 years of marriage. The two married in 1949 and had two children together. Vito is retired electronics engineer for the Department of Defense, who moved to Tinton Falls in 1960. At that time, his monthly salary of $180 per month was enough to pay the mortgage and provide for his family. One of the arears of contention during his campaign was that of property taxes, and more specifically, the way that the taxes have escalated, is a problem that afflicts many municipalities in the State of New Jersey. His opponent, Mayor Gerald M. Turning (single-term), is thirty years junior in age to Perillo. Mayor Turning is a retired borough police chief and one-time borough administrator. He was considered by many to be a lock for a second term, making the Election Day result a huge upset.
That leaves Perillo with other possible distinctions. He might be the oldest candidate elected to a first term in New Jersey and perhaps the country. After he retired as a defense engineer, he worked as an accountant and remarked about the Mayor’s office. “To me, it’s another job. I’m going to go to another job…I am still doing the accounting books for my son and daughter,” said Mr. Perillo.
The Mayor-elect ran a grassroots campaign, walking from house to house, handing out 7,500 campaign flyers. He received a little help from his family along the way. He says that he wore out two pairs of shoes walking around town. He wants municipalities to “hold the line” when it comes to taxes. Perillo says that he ran his campaign on a message of transparency. He says that lawsuits in the town cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I want to bring everyone together. The ones who voted for me, the ones who voted against me. We’re all Tinton Falls,” he said.
When the news was official that Mr. Perillo had indeed won the election, he was roused from his sleep at 7:50 am by a congratulatory phone call from a neighbor and the calls kept pouring in, as did knocks on his front door. CBS-TV wanted an interview, while another news service simply showed up on his porch.
“I think it’s because of my age, at 93. And the fact that I’m a World War II veteran. But I’d like to get past all that,” Perillo said, about the sudden attention he’s receiving. He won by a margin of 2,449 votes to 2,146 and will be sworn in as Mayor on January 2, 2018.