Clearly, Mayor Calderone is better than Commissioner Tellalian at two things: fundraising and marketing.
It was about ten days ago that I spotted my first green, Tellalian yard sign peeking out from the midst of a bumper crop of blue Calderone signs. The mayor’s website is even more sophisticated than that of his opponent’s.
What’s more, Calderone will probably raise at least twice as much money as Tellalian. In saying that, I’m not implying that Mayor Calderone has done anything wrong. He is playing by the rules. The problem with the increased exposure he is getting is that being better at fundraising and marketing is not necessarily an indication that he will be a better mayor.
When I was a boy, Hamm’s Beer had commercials which always made my father laugh. They involved an animated bear who always wound up looking silly in the 30-second sketch that was part of the ad. My father admitted that he bought Hamm’s not because he thought it was the best beer for the price but because of the bear.
Good marketing doesn’t mean the product is good. It doesn’t mean it’s bad either. Good marketing simply means the company is good at marketing.
Commissioner Tellalian and I know each other well enough to be on a first name basis, but I couldn’t say that I knew him well until a few weeks ago. While Calderone is gregarious and outgoing, Tellalian is more reserved.
Therefore, I was a little surprised, and then impressed, by how much substance exists inside this quiet commissioner. The occasion was the CUinFP forum held at the Park on March 2. Because Calderone decided not to participate, Tellalian had the podium all to himself for an hour.
He didn’t duck any questions. Neither did he spout simplistic talking points. He gave substantive, reasoned responses to every question. What also got my attention was that he acknowledged that the mayor has done a good job. He wasn’t trying to lift himself up by putting his opponent down. He simply said that he could do better and that it’s time for a change.
To return to my Hamm’s Beer analogy, even though the commissioner’s marketing was inferior – almost nonexistent at the beginning – I decided to give the “product” a try by going to the forum and then later to a Saturday morning meet-and-greet at Dunkin Donuts.
I have observed Calderone’s leadership for a long time and think he has been good for our village. From what I heard at the forum and the donut shop, I believe Tellalian would also be a good mayor. I think we are blessed this time around by having to choose between two good guys.
What will make the decision even more difficult is that if you look at their websites, the two candidates promise many of the same things: transparency, fiscal responsibility, infrastructure improvements, and programs for seniors and youth.
So, how do you decide? Your decision might ultimately have to do with the candidates’ temperaments, especially insofar as their problem-solving methods have been shaped by the work they do.
Calderone has been a business man for most of his adult life, and for the last ten years he’s been a politician. Tellalian has been an engineer and recently a politician. Entrepreneurs and engineers make decisions in different ways. Although business owners have to worry about providing quality products or services, their focus – the bottom line – always comes down to sales. Although engineers have to create products that sell once they are on the market, their primary focus is on the process of creating a quality product.
Ideally the two roles are complementary. I admit to having the fantasy of resolving our election-day dilemma by having them be co-mayors – if they could work together. But that, of course, is not going to happen.
So, what we’re left with is the obligation to invest enough time online and/or at the forum on Wednesday evening to get beyond the marketing and into the substance.
Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.