Nestled at the corners of New York State Route 145 and 30 is Middleburgh… a quaint, picturesque village of 1,500, first settled in 1712.
Matthew Avitabile is a part time history professor, has been a village trustee for five years and now, at the age of 25, is the village mayor.
Here is his story in his own words…
I have a real attraction to this area. My folks came up here from Queens in 91. So, I came up right before I started to go to school and what I am able to see is the very good parts about living in this area, the things that it has to offer and the potential.
Q – So, do you have a Super Pac?
Well, not yet…. (laughs) not yet. No. The closest thing I had was just my own campaign staff. I had myself… had my brother, Dr. Tom and a whole bunch of people that were willing to pitch in and help. It was a real community effort to help get me elected. There were people making phone calls and, you know, handing out fliers… telling their friends. I think there were a lot of people who really saw, not only what this community is and all of its good qualities… and all the things that are yet ahead of us, if the proper leadership came in.
Q – I can tell from your dress and the office here that you guys are making a ton of money.
Yes, I am exorbitantly wealthy ( laughs). I make a grand total of $3,400 a year for my job as Mayor and we actually, myself and the Board, took a pay cut this year. We faced a massive deficit.
Q – If one were to ask, what makes you tick Matthew? Is it ego? What is it all about? I mean what is driving you?
Caffeine is probably not a good answer is it? Ah… Well, in the office you need a certain level of ego and confidence in yourself. But, I think part of it is… my girlfriend says I have a savior complex… that wouldn’t be a good thing to say.
Q – No, that’s good. Tell me… savior complex? Tell me about that?
Well, I try… what happened during the flood was that people would come in and there would be people that… there were people that were out of their houses. There would be people that they lost everything or they had a problem that was bad but not catastrophic and what would happen is everyone was looking for some sort of aid. And, the problem was the community was totally cut off from the outside world… half of our phones didn’t work. The roads were not open. And, we didn’t have access to county and state, pretty much anything, the first several days. And it was unprecedented. We had a flood in 96. It was bad, but, not nearly as bad as this one. Well, what happened is, we set up our center here at the village hall and people… you had to gauge what people needed. And, what everyone needed, even beyond the volunteer work and I organized over a hundred of the first volunteers and food and coffee… and what they needed was reassurance that somebody was going to listen to them.
Q – So, what do you do for fun?
Ha… I like that question. I am a very boring person, actually. I hate to say it but, I have always been. I think that is part of the reason why I ended up getting elected… because I tended rather than going out and partying, I would be at home reading or something. In high school I used to read a lot. I don’t read as much now. I read a lot of news now but not as many actual books. See, that’s the problem. I am a Mets fan. So, it has been very difficult for me recently.
Q – Oh, a Mets fan? Oh, that’s the other problem.
So, I used to follow baseball quite closely… now, not as much. But, it is really a funny question because the last month, since I have been Mayor, I have not been able to do much on my own. So, I am just trying to think. I don’t know I think a lot of it is following the news, following politics. I was raised in a journalist family, so the news comes pretty easily to me… like wanting to search it out. I am always looking for something to do basically. I am always looking for side projects… maybe something where I can go and help somebody out on a political level and a personal level. What I have found is that I like to be the point man. I like to me the person somebody asks and I try and solve the problem… and, if I can’t I’ll direct them to somebody. Just for fun… I value my time when I can sleep in past nine. I can do that sometimes.
Q – Let me ask you about your aspirations. Am I sitting here talking to a future President of the U.S. in like 30 years or something like that?
I don’t know. That is the thing. I have been thinking about that too recently. But, there is so much work that has to be done. There is so much stuff left over from the flood. So many people that are basically coming forward now because they felt that no one would be able to listen to them or help them. Just today, actually about a half hour before we met, I spoke to a woman and she is trying to find assistance and nobody reached out to her. In fact, what happened was that I had been able to help one of her neighbors and they had given her my name. I’ve been able to help with several things. For example, the dumpsters… for people that were flooded out they need dumpsters not only to get rid of debris from their house, but a lot of wood and brush and everything that washed up. And, it never got done. I become Mayor. I reached out to a few people. I contacted FEMA. It turns out that, “Oh, we can do it”… we’ll have to put the money out up front, but at the end of the day it will be free and we can do it and help over one hundred flood victims. And, we have been able to do that in the first month of the administration just because there was no creative thinking, or very little creative thinking to do such a thing beforehand. So, as far as going forward, I am not sure. There are thoughts I have had about my education, you know, if a doctorate is something I want to go on for… maybe, a master’s degree in political science. But, as of now, I have the job that I like, at a place that I like at Oneonta. I have a job were I feel like I am doing what I need to be doing right here in the Mayor’s office. I have a house and a wonderful girlfriend. So, for the next four years until my term runs out or until I almost have to decide whether I run again, I going to be the best job I can for now. And, if I decide to do anything else, we’ll have to sit down again and do this again.