Some elected officials got their start in politics hanging out at the local party clubhouse, others working on campaigns. Steve Matteo answered an ad in the paper. Nine years later he is still working for the councilman who placed it: Jimmy Oddo of Staten Island. That is, until Jan. 1, when Oddo becomes borough president, and Matteo succeeds the man whom he has long served as chief of staff. Given that Matteo’s transition requires just changing the name on the door of Oddo’s district office, it should be relatively effortless.
“Having a smooth transition is important, especially when it comes to constituent services,” Matteo said. “Our structure and our plan is in place, so we won’t miss a beat. On day one we’re ready to go.”
That seamless changeover will be important for Matteo’s constituents, who continue to suffer from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. The ongoing recovery effort will be Matteo’s top priority, along with key longtime issues for Staten Islanders, like the high cost of bridge tolls, inadequate mass transit and insufficient healthcare facilities.
“We have to fight tooth and nail to get our roads fixed,” said Matteo. “We don’t have our own HHC-run hospital. They’re not giving us the services we need. Staten Island is trapped. We don’t have adequate mass transit. We have to pay exorbitant amounts to get off and home to Staten Island. We need Staten Island to be a priority and not the forgotten borough.”
Although Matteo worked closely with Oddo for almost a decade, he emphasized that he will be very much his own man in the Council. He has already drawn up a 90-plus point agenda of things big and small. Matteo will face the challenge of being one of only three Republican members of the Council, along with new minority leader, Vinny Ignizio, and Matteo’s fellow St. Francis College alum, Councilman Eric Ulrich of Queens. Matteo is undaunted by the numbers:
“On Staten Island we work with elected officials on both sides of the aisle,” he explained. “We had a great relationship with the Speaker’s office [under Oddo]. We’ve been able to pass 15 bills, so from my experience, relationships are key.”
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