Incumbent — and embattled — mayor Matty Mattioli fended off three challengers who criticized his gruff management style during council meetings to earn a third, two-year term, according to unofficial results from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office.
“I expected this, to tell you the truth,” Mattioli said from Greenway Village where he was celebrating with about 50 supporters. “But I didn’t think it would be this close.”
The 86-year-old Mattioli narrowly bested businesswoman Felicia Matula, with former councilwoman Martha Webster and entrepreneur Laurel Bennett, finishing a distant third and fourth, respectively. Of the village’s 22,708 registered voters, 1,938 cast ballots.
Mattioli said this will be his final term.
“I’m not running for governor and I will never run for mayor again,” he said. “I’d like to go out with a bang.”
In an email to “The Palm Beach Post,” Webster simply said she was disappointed.
“I had wonderful volunteers who gave graciously,” Webster wrote.
Calls to Matula and Bennett were not returned.
While there were a number of issues facing the village in the past year — the poor condition of canals, the future of the old wastewater treatment plant on Crestwood Boulevard, a proposed bicycle/pedestrian entrance for Commons Park — the race almost became a referendum on Mattioli’s curt style as all three challengers took issue with how he runs council meetings. The mayor has been known to cut comments short or to not let residents speak. He once told Webster to “shut up” during a meeting two years ago.
“There has been a clear deterioration in leadership,” said the 67-year-old Webster. “It was time for a change.”
Matula, a 43-year-old chief financial officer with Pinnacle Hotel Management, even joked she wanted to bring popcorn to the meetings because they were so entertaining while Bennett, who runs her own personal health records company, said the village needed a mayor who would listen to residents and be accountable to them.
“I don’t believe we have anybody doing that right now,” the 57-year-old Bennett told “The Palm Beach Post” in January.
But an almost defiant Mattioli dismissed his critics, saying they were “totally wrong.”
“If you have anything to say or you don’t like what we’re doing or how we’re doing it, tell us,” Mattioli said last month at the candidates forum. “In my 20 years, three people have come up to speak. Now we have problems? I guess I don’t know what I’m doing or I wouldn’t have been here for 20 years.”
After his narrow victory, however, Mattioli acknowledged the criticisms did sting a little.
“Everybody thinks I’m a Scrooge,” he said. “That bothers me a little bit.”
Mattioli, who retired in 1982 as territory manager of sales for Corning Glass Works, was elected mayor in 2010 and reelected in 2012. He has served on the council since 1994. He said he ran for a third term to see projects that started on his watch come to fruition, referring to the potential SR 7 expansion, the 650,000-square-foot distribution center discount grocer Aldi is building on SR 7 and Okeechobee Boulevard and the 125,000-square-foot center American Tire Distributors is building near Southern Boulevard.
The two construction jobs, Mattioli said, will bring about 350 jobs to the village.
“Does that spur economic development? I think it does,” Mattioli said.
One of his top accomplishments, Mattioli said, has been keeping a low tax rate. The current property tax rate is $1.92 per $1,000 of taxable property value.
“I can’t see taxes rising in the next five years or beyond that,” Mattioli said.
As for Commons Park, while Mattioli’s challengers questioned the amount of money the village has spent on the $23 million site since it opened last year, the mayor justified it.
“This will be our version of of (New York’s) Central Park,” he said. “It’s like building a house. You add a window here, a tree here and a door there. It’s the same thing.”
Admitting he was tired, Mattioli said he’s looking forward to his third term.
“Now I can get on with my life and finish what I promised,” he said.