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93-Year-Old WWII Vet Becomes NJ Mayor Fulfilling Lifelong Dream

Vito Perillo YouTube
Vito Perillo YouTube

A World War II veteran won in one of the biggest election upsets this week by defeating New Jersey Mayor Gerald M. Turning in the town of Tinton Falls. 

Vito Perillo was in for one of the toughest challenges of his life, but the 93-year-old was determined to run for office in order to change his community. 

"I wanted to run because I was upset with some of the things this administration is doing," he said. 

According to the Asbury Park Press, Perillo was motivated to run for mayor because of whistleblower lawsuits involving the police department. The lawsuits cost Tinton Falls a reported $1.1 million in settlements.

"It came out of my pocket and the residents of Tinton Falls, and I thought, 'That's unfair,'" he told NJ.com.

Perillo, who served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific theater in WWII, knew the odds were stacked against him. 

Turning was an incumbent candidate and a member of the township's police force for 30 years. 

"I didn't think I had a chance," Perillo said afterward. "I was told by a lot of people that (Turning) had a lot of connections, he was well-known, well-liked and all this good stuff. I had a tough road, but I thought I would give it a go."

It was his first try for public office and he ran under the slogan "a full-time fiscally prudent mayor."

Perillo wore out two pairs of shoes going from door to door for his campaign.

"We covered about 200 to 250 homes a day," he said.

His hard work paid off. 

"I never counted him out," his grandson, Mike Perillo-Gentile, said. "He's always been a fighter and a winner. I'm not surprised that he won, and I'm very excited.

Perillo beat Turning by 300 votes in the non-partisan election for the Monmouth County borough. 

"A man of his age, when he said he wanted to run for mayor, any other grandson might have thought he's a little crazy," Perillo-Gentile said. "Not if you know my grandfather. When he wants to do something, he does it, and I think it's a heck of a story."

"I think it's great," his granddaughter, Melissa Balsamello, said. "He's fulfilled a dream he always had."

Perillo said he feels good about his victory, but he is glad it is over.

"I'm glad I won and I want to thank my family, my grandson, and my neighbors," he said. "They gave me a great deal of encouragement."

Perillo said he is looking forward to making positive changes in the community. 

"I'm the mayor of all the people," Perillo said. "Even the people who didn't vote for me." 

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