“Without dedicated public servants, as yourself, at the local level, our efforts here in Washington would be for naught. I am very much aware of your personal commitment in this regard and I thank you for it….”
Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President, writing to Al Delbello in 1977.
“Al’s legacy is bigger than all of us, touching each of our lives, even today. A kind, generous and brilliant man who was a mentor to me, (Al) proved that anything is possible for a boy from Yonkers.”
Michael Spano, mayor, city of Yonkers
As mayor of his native Yonkers—the third largest city in New York—Alfred DelBello defied an ingrained, corrupt, inefficient patronage system to bring fiscal sanity and better living conditions to Yonkers’ citizens. DelBello then became the first Democrat to be elected Westchester County Executive, where he balanced fiscal conservatism and an innovative approach to funding with improvements to health care, the environment, the criminal justice system, and equal rights. DelBello brought a bipartisan approach to his role as New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo’s first lieutenant governor in the early 1980s. Even after his resignation in 1985, he continued to pursue many of his political passions in business and, in so doing, become what Socrates would have called “a citizen of the world.”
In an age in which climate change, health care, and social injustice are key issues and bipartisanship an endangered species, one politician remains a not-so-distant mirror of how to work across party lines to ensure quality of life for all Americans.
From there, Lipman digs back for a brief examination of DelBello's education and marriage before jumping into the meat of this exhaustive account, a highly detailed look at DelBello’s first political job, as a city councilman in his hometown of Yonkers. What follows is a blow-by-blow of DelBello’s career: he won the mayor's office with a promise to cut out the corruption of political patronage. He teamed with other mayors to get state funding, hosted a call-in radio show for his constituents, and even took on the mob-controlled garbage disposal industry. He moved on to become county executive, helping to establish a new hospital, dealing with a corrupt police department, and defusing a prison riot.
Throughout, DelBello is depicted as fair, kind, and intelligent, writing at times as gung-ho as a press release. Readers invested in New York state politics will find a fest of detail, though a focus on the nuts and bolts of wrangling over city projects likely limits the book’s audience. Still, Lipman focuses on the biggest issues, like rooting out corruption, and DelBello's dogged determination shines through, guiding the career of a politician with the desire—and the will and guile—to make things better for his hometown.
Takeaway: Readers fascinated by New York state politics will enjoy this in-depth history of a politico unafraid to make enemies.
Great for fans of: Seymour P. Lachman and Robert Polner’s The Man Who Saved New York, George J. Marlin’s Mario Cuomo: The Myth and the Man.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-