Garofalo supporters have largely remained in the woodwork, though a
handful spoke on his behalf over the summer, a fact the former mayor
attributes to the unpleasant experience of media attention.
But some, like Laird and local developer John Tillotson, have spoken
"I've known [Garofalo] long before he got onto the council, and you
don't just abandon your friends when they're in trouble," Tillotson said,
adding he's known Garofalo for about 30 years. "It's important to realize
he is a person, with frailties and strengths like you and me, but his
intentions have always been good."
When Garofalo stepped up to the mayor's seat a year ago, he made
history as the city's first Italian mayor, as well as the first council
leader of the new millennium.
The 31-year Surf City resident had already tucked five years of
council experience under his belt, with his first election win in 1994
and a successful bid for reelection four years later.
He came in with eyes wide open and aimed at addressing environmental
issues, as well as bolstering economic and community development.
The city's revenue from sales and property taxes has increased in the
six years he's served on the council.
"The chief goal this year was to bring people together," Garofalo said
of his mayoral term. "And I think we accomplished that."
But the brass soon rubbed off those buttons.
Aside from the litany of charges and investigations, Garofalo had
plenty to deal with in his personal life.
He underwent open heart surgery for a double bypass in May, spent time
with 29-year-old son Kevin, who suffers from chronic and severe medical
problems, and gave his daughter, Nancy Gray, 21, away at her wedding.
Despite his controversial term as mayor, Garofalo is steadfast in his
commitment to his post as councilman and the city as a whole.
"I've spent my life doing this type of work, and I'm not about to
throw it away because of some votes on the City Council," he said. "I
sought legal advice whenever there were questions on an issue, and
followed that advice. I'm fighting the perception of wrongdoing and the
belief that public service is a less than honest path."
That fight crystallized in October, when some of his opponents, led by
Cole, leveled their intent to recall him from office.
The recall leaders reasoned that in addition to the conflict charges
swirling around him, Garofalo's mandatory abstentions prevent him from
voting on crucial city issues, rendering him ineffective as a leader.
But Cole's challenge has only managed to fire up Garofalo, who said he
looks forward to campaigning for himself during a recall election next
spring should the effort go that far.
And the upcoming new year will bring more good things to look forward
to, he added.
"I think the focus of next year is going to be bringing people closer