BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
The son of the late Josephine Carella, longtime town clerk of Haverstraw, told the Rockland County Times he is all in for a run to win his mother’s former seat in 2013.
Bernard Carella said he learned a lot from his mother, believes she did an exemplary job as town clerk and would like to continue her legacy. Carella said, “I don’t want to try to go and change something that’s working. I will be expanding on things my mother has put in place. I will add to it, contribute to it, embellish it, and run the office with the same level of moral integrity that she did.”
Josephine Carella passed away the week of Thanksgiving 2012 after over 36 years as town clerk, making her one of the longest serving public officials in New York State at the time.
Her seat is already the subject of much controversy.
Bernard Carella has been highly critical of Town of Haverstraw Democratic Chairman Fred Miller and Town Supervisor Howard Phillips, who he said passed up his mother’s chosen successor, Deputy Clerk Rachel Ventura, in favor of Miller’s own secretary Karen Bulley.
Miller is the village clerk of West Haverstraw and Bulley is his deputy clerk. Bulley is expected to be officially appointed to the position of town clerk for one year at the town’s January reorganization meeting.
In 2011 Carella said Miller and Phillips pressured the then-87-year-old Carella to retire. Carella did not want to retire until she saw an assurance that Ventura would succeed her.
“They tried to get her to retire. They hurt her and showed disrespect. They showed her that ‘you’re not important to us.’ That’s one of the worst things you can do,” Carella said.
“That’s not the American way,” he continued. “We’re supposed to value the importance of individuals because we want to win in life.”
Bernard Carella, who lives in a classic house on Hudson Avenue in the Village of Haverstraw, describes himself as part of a four-generation Democratic Party tradition in the town and village. His grandfather Bennie Carella, was the biggest real estate developer in the village during his day, he said.
Although he’s never run for office himself, he said he’s been observing his mother’s work for much of his life and been an unofficial assistant to her the past 17 years.
Carella also has been an entrepreneur and commodities broker for over three decades, running such enterprises as the Wooster Inn restaurant in Seymour, Connecticut, a renewable energy firm NRG Management Corp which operated in the early 1980s, Tier One Advertising ltd., and trading precious metals on Wall Street.
According to Carella, his mother’s requests for an orderly succession, similar to the one which led to her ascension from deputy clerk to town clerk in the 1970s, were not met with receptive ears from local political leadership. Carella claims Miller asked him, shortly after his mother passed away, “What makes you or your mother think you have the right to pick her successor?”
“These are political appointments,” said Miller, according to Carella.
This notion has not sat well with Carella, who noted the position is one elected by the people. With Ventura politically frozen out of the opportunity he feels she earned, he wants to follow through on his mother’s wishes and run for the office. She had, in fact, told him that if this happened, she’d like him to run.
“It’s the American way, we have a democracy in this country, not a dictatorship,” Carella said. “I’d like to bring a whole, new fresh look to the political environment and local government here in Haverstraw.”
Carella represents a challenge to the political structure of Haverstraw, where the strong Democratic machine run by Fred Miller since the 1960s has only occasionally produced such controversies as the brewing Carella versus Bulley primary.
Bernard Carella has never run for office, so it remains to be seen how effective of a campaigner he is, but politics is in his blood. He also has name recognition and deep community ties. It should be an interesting 2013.
Read next week for Miller and Phillips’ reaction to Carella’s comments.