Dan Hust | Democrat
Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini (center) was joined by family and friends at Sunday’s retirement party at the Villa Roma in Callicoon. From the left are NYS Senator John Bonacic (nursing a broken collarbone from a fall), Tony’s wife Linda and Tony’s sons Chris and Todd.
Cellini wished well on his retirement
Story by Dan Hust
CALLICOON October 4, 2013 Tony Cellini is hanging up the hat he’s worn for nearly 40 years.
Arguably the best-known politician in modern-day Sullivan County, Cellini was feted Sunday at the Villa Roma in Callicoon, just three months before his official retirement from politics.
“On December 31 of this year,” he told a crowd of more than 250, “I’ll be closing a chapter of my life.”
That chapter began in 1974, when he was first elected to the Thompson Town Board. Two decades later, he was elected to lead the town as supervisor, a role he’s kept, thanks to voters, for the past 20 years.
In that time, Cellini developed a fearless reputation, inspiring deep loyalty in supporters while fomenting sharp dislike in critics.
Some of the largest projects to come to Thompson Wal-Mart and the Monticello Motor Club, to name two earned his passionate advocacy in the name of taxpayers, though some of those same taxpayers felt he was a little too corporately cozy.
Sunday, about the worst he was accused of was something he has long acknowledged: he can be abrasive.
But speakers argued that’s served him well.
“Tony stands out and above all of them [politicians], because what you see is what you get,” remarked NYS Senator John Bonacic.
“Never afraid to take on a good fight that’s Tony Cellini,” added Hal Teitelbaum, whose Crystal Run Healthcare Cellini helped site in Rock Hill.
“To tell it like it is that is Tony Cellini,” agreed Thunder 102 radio personality Paul Ciliberto, who’s worked closely with Cellini on community-oriented fundraisers.
That no-nonsense attitude got things done.
“If it wasn’t for Tony Cellini,” Monticello Central Schools Supt. Dan Teplesky offered as an example, “the school district wouldn’t have the school resource officers it has.”
It also got Cellini through a serious health problem that almost cost him his life.
“Who knew we’d still have him here today?” noted wife Linda, who was told multiple times that Tony would not survive. “God works in so many wonderful ways.”
Even his retirement party had a goal in mind: the proceeds of every $50-a-plate ticket went to the local YMCA’s environmental education center now under construction in Rock Hill through Linda, who is its development director.
Linda and their two grown sons, Chris and Todd, were integral parts of Sunday’s gathering. Indeed, while Linda manned the reception desk, the younger Cellinis entertained the crowd with a joint speech about their father.
“We don’t have to worry what we say will affect the outcome of an election this time!” joked Chris, a Monticello educator.
So what’s it like living with Tony Cellini?
“Dad set the bar very high in our household,” Todd, a Georgia university president, affirmed. “Academic excellence and good behavior were not rewarded they were expected.”
Todd said his father set the standard.
“His mark on the men we’ve become is immeasurable, and we thank him for that,” he related.
Come January, Cellini’s wife and sons will see more of him, at home in Sackett Lake, at a getaway up in the Finger Lakes, and down in Savannah, Georgia, where Todd lives and works.
Other than that, “I’m not sure what I will do in my spare time,” Tony Cellini admitted. “I’m prepared to sit back and see what happens, because life has a way of presenting you with its own ideas.”
What he leaves behind, however, are memories of and monuments to his four decades of public service.
“Today, we’re talking legacy,” agreed emcee Josh Sommers, whom Cellini calls a “third son.” “Tony Cellini exemplifies a commitment to our community that I think we can all acknowledge is rare.”
Or as childhood friend Bob Case put it, “He’s done one hell of a good job, I’ll tell you that.”
Cellini’s response to the praise was modest and, for once, understated:
“Thank you for allowing me to serve you.”