BY: KEN BESSETTE
JoAnne and Phillip DiMatteo led an ideal life in their small Italian neighborhood. They were respected business owners and pillars of their community, with a large circle of good friends. But when Phillip unseats oafish and corrupt Mayor Michael Crotty and his political machine, the DiMatteo’s idyllic lives are forever changed. After Phillip tragically and mysteriously dies, JoAnne turns to the shelter of her best friends for support and comfort. Together they are soon confronted with information about Phillip’s untimely death which they simply can’t ignore. Living together in a stately house, named The Settlement, the ladies bring ingenuity to a new level in creating an elaborate sting to get corrupt Mayor Crotty out of office and into jail. Orchestrating every aspect of Operation Out ’n’ In, they assemble and direct a disparate cast of quirky characters who turn settling a score into an art form…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Settlement by Ken Bessette, JoAnne DiMatteo has just lost her husband Phillip under mysterious circumstances. The only thing she knows for sure is that his death was caused, directly or indirectly, by his corrupt political rival, Mayor Michal Crotty and his political machine that has ruled their small town for decades. When Phillip unseats him as mayor, Crotty is determined to get even and destroys their business, reputation, and lives. After Phillip’s death, JoAnne wants revenge, and she and her close friends, living together in a mansion called The Settlement, come up with a plan to get Crotty and his cronies out of office and into jail. It takes getting revenge to a whole new level. Now all they have to do is pull it off.
Fun, creative, and refreshingly unique, this is a story you will want to read over and over again, just for the pure enjoyment.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Settlement by Ken Bessette is the story of four women bent on revenge. When JoAnne DiMatteo’s husband Phillip decides to run for mayor of their town and unseat the corrupt political machine currently in power, he has no idea what he is getting into. Phillip wins the election, but his and JoAnne’s lives are turned upside down by the ex-mayor and his cohorts. Then Phillip dies mysteriously, the corrupt mayor is back in office, and JoAnne has finally had enough. With her life destroyed, she moves in with three women friends in a house called The Settlement. Bent on revenge, she decides to take down the powers-that-be who she feels are responsible for Phillip’s death. The four women, along with several friends, set up Operation In and Out, an elaborate sting to get the corrupt mayor out of office and into jail, turning getting revenge into an art form…
I loved this book! Well written, clever, creative, and fun, The Settlement will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you feel good right down to your toes. A truly delightful book.
With her head down and her face resting in both hands, JoAnne DiMatteo sat in a large wing chair a few steps to the right of a closed casket. On top of the casket was a photo of Phillip DiMatteo, her deceased husband, taken many years prior. It showed Phillip standing behind the counter, at the DiMatteo Family Pharmacy, as he was being handed a ridiculously large cardboard cut-out of a key by his father, Peter. It was taken on the day that Peter retired and Phillip took over the pharmacy. It had been the proudest day of Phillip’s life and for him, a moment of pure joy. JoAnne wanted to remember him that way—she also wanted everyone coming to the wake to remember him that way.
Phillip and JoAnne had spent the better part of their married lives owning and operating the DiMatteo Family Pharmacy. In the old neighborhood of South Troy where it was located, it was known familiarly as the “Fam Pharm.” Phillip began work there, the day after he graduated from the Albany College of Pharmacy, under the tutelage and direction of his father who had started the business before Phillip was born. JoAnne began working there as a billing clerk soon after she and Phillip married. She later earned her pharmacy degree from the same college as Phillip and together they ran the business for nearly thirty years.
John Martone, second generation owner of Martone’s Funeral Home in South Troy, stood quietly, well off to the side of the casket. He had personally driven JoAnne to the funeral home an hour before the wake would begin. She had said she wanted some private time with Phillip before everyone came.
She spent much of that time remembering her days with Phillip at the Fam Pharm before he got into politics. That life she loved so much totally revolved around Phillip and the pharmacy. Now, both were gone forever.
In her solitude, she wondered whether she could have done more to change the course of these horrible events. Should she have insisted that Phillip get more help? Should she have intervened when his behavior began to get so horribly erratic? Should she have somehow stopped him from getting into politics in the first place? Could she have done anything to save her husband and best friend? She despaired that her “mistake” at the pharmacy had begun his agony and now hers.
The county coroner had been slow to issue a definitive statement regarding Phillip’s death. Clearly it was the result of the massive injuries he sustained when his car was smashed by a freight train traveling at sixty miles per hour. What was not clear to anyone was what Phillip was doing out there in the middle of the night on the railroad crossing at Rackley Road—a crossing that led only to a long-abandoned farm. The newspaper account diplomatically steered clear of calling it a suicide. Based on interviews with JoAnne, Phillip’s doctor, the train operator, Police Chief Roberts, and others who had been in contact with Phillip in the preceding weeks, the report strongly suggested that Phillip’s fateful crossing of the tracks at Rackley Road that night could well have been the result of drug-induced night wandering. By all accounts of Phillip’s recent behavior, it appeared as though he was literally asleep at the wheel on the train tracks.
But as she sat quietly beside him for the very last time, JoAnne was not so sure that it was an accident. She was horrified to think that he had taken his own life, but she was painfully aware of how deeply saddened and depressed he was. He had blamed himself for the sorrow they had both endured over the pharmacy scandal. He felt disgraced and ashamed and was devastated that he had brought down such feelings on JoAnne as well.
She realized that she might never know if he was on the train tracks that night by accident or by plan. But oddly, it didn’t seem to matter much to her. Either way, Phillip was gone because of a series of events that were brought on by his involvement in politics and the pain they both endured as a result. While she felt that there was no hope of ever definitively knowing exactly why Phillip was on Rackley Road that night, in JoAnne’s mind, it really didn’t matter. He was dead because of Michael Crotty.
With his head lowered and hands clasped behind him, John Martone slowly stepped toward JoAnne. His approach snapped her out of her thoughts. She looked up at him and smiled a tired but sincere smile. Martone sat on the arm of her chair. He bent toward her, kissing her softly on the cheek.
“Jo, it’s four o’clock. There’s a long line outside already, and we should open the door soon.”
“Are there really a lot of people coming, John?” she said almost hopefully.
“The line is huge already. It’s already halfway down Fifteenth Street,” he said as he put his hand on her shoulder. “Listen to me, Jo. This is going to be a long night. There are going to be more people coming than you can imagine. I want you to know that no matter how long this takes, I’m going to be right here with you. And it’s okay to…you know…take a little break every now and then. Marie will be in the office and will be there for you any time you need to take a little time for yourself. Believe me, everybody will understand. Promise you’ll take a break every once in a while if you need to, all right? Will you promise me you’ll do that?”
“I’m glad people are coming, John.” JoAnne had a charming way of not answering questions she did not want to by just pretending they were never even asked. “It shows how much they respect Phillip. I want them all to know how much Phillip and I appreciate them coming.” Even four days after the crash, JoAnne was still talking about Phillip in the present.
They both stood up. JoAnne nervously brushed at the front of her simple black dress as though to ensure her proper appearance. Phillip was watching, she thought. She surveyed the room. “So many flowers. So many, many people sent flowers,” she said to no one in particular.
As Martone walked out to open the front door of the funeral home, JoAnne motioned over the two women who had been standing silently in the back of the room. Her two closest friends in world, Rita Russo and Pat Bocketti, had been by her side almost constantly since the news about Phillip had broken. They had tried to persuade her to stay with them at the house they shared in the South Troy Hill section but instead JoAnne stayed alone in her own house, alone with her thoughts of Phillip.
Seeing JoAnne’s beckoning move, Rita gave Pat a nudge. “Come on, Patty. Here we go,” she said as they hurriedly moved to take their position on either side of her.
The calling hours were scheduled from four to eight p.m., with the funeral service set for nine a.m. the following morning at Saint Paul’s Church, the same church in which Phillip and JoAnne had both been baptized and had been married when they were both twenty-two years old.
For three solid hours, family, friends, local politicians, business leaders, police and fire department officials, and countless associates of both Phillip and JoAnne packed the funeral home. It was by far the largest turnout for a wake to be seen at the Martone Funeral Home in many years. John Martone and his wife Marie skillfully and diplomatically handled the crowds while Rita and Pat stood faithfully at JoAnne’s side, trying to keep the well-intended but tediously repetitious condolences to a minimum. JoAnne mouthed the words “Thank you” to them about every five minutes.
All things considered, the wake went off mostly as planned. JoAnne was completely gracious to everyone who passed through the line and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. She was gratified and, in a way, relieved by the extraordinary turnout. It was a type of vindication for herself and for Phillip. The outpouring of support was, to her and to everyone in attendance, a sign that the fog of shame that had fallen on the DiMatteos had been lifted. JoAnne stood stoically and bravely hour after hour and took no breaks. She sincerely thanked everyone who passed by for their support and repeated over and over again how blessed she was to have had Phillip by her side for so many years and how proud she was to have been his wife. The wake was, like the DiMatteos themselves, ordered and dignified almost in its entirety. Almost.
Slightly after seven, as JoAnne, Rita, and Pat stood facing the room and the seemingly endless line of people that snaked its way back through the funeral home and out the door, Rita took note of some commotion at the far-end entrance which led from the Martone living quarters. Emerging from the door were Marie Martone and Mayor Michael Crotty, along with his ever-present top aide, Bruno Kreider. They were moving directly toward the front, down the aisle of chairs filled with attendees who sat for a time after going through the line.
The mayor and Kreider had come in through the private entrance to the Martone residence, effectively avoiding what was still a lengthy wait outside. Crotty moved directly toward JoAnne wearing a transparently fake look of sadness. As Marie followed them toward the front of the room, Rita’s eyes widened and blazed in their direction. Marie saw Rita’s reaction and mouthed to her, “What am I gonna do?”
Crotty strode confidently forward, with Kreider close behind, nodding solemnly to all who noticed him entering. As he neared the casket, Rita broke ranks from the receiving line to intercept the approaching mayor. She reached him several feet away and firmly grasped his arm, effectively steering him toward an empty space around the corner of the viewing room.
“You got a special pass on you there, jackass? Perhaps neither you nor your dopey sidekick here noticed that there’s a line,” she said to him with fire in her eyes. “Now be a good boy and go stand at the end of it.”
“Well hello, Mrs. White,” Crotty said in a sarcastic reference to Rita’s former husband, Joe White.
“It’s Ms. Russo to you, butt-head.”
Kreider took a step to move between Rita and Crotty. “Now, Rita, let’s not make a scene here.”
“Shut up, Kreider,” Rita snapped back before returning her attention back to Crotty. “And you’re the one creating a scene by just showing up in the first place. Everybody knows you hated Phillip and you showing up at his wake is ridiculously phony, even by your slimy standards. Now why don’t you and your little toady go outside and get in line behind those people who are here for the right reasons. Hopefully, it’s so long we can close the doors before you get back in.”
Crotty sported a calm smile as Rita chided him, well aware that half of the people in the room were witnessing this. In a low tone he said, “I’m glad to see that Mrs. DiMatteo has hired a security team. Maybe she should have gotten one for her husband.” Kreider let out an audible derisive snort at Crotty’s comeback.
“You bastard,” Rita snarled as Crotty gave a little smiling nod in the direction of two passersby as though this conversation was all routine.
Kreider stepped closer. “Rita, insofar as this is a public facility and several of the mayor’s police friends are present, you may do well to just allow him to express his condolences, and then we can be on our way without you being handcuffed.”
Rita knew she could not actually stop Crotty from being there, but she did want to lay down some ground rules. “If you say one single thing to upset JoAnne, I’ll reach into your mouth and rip out your tongue,” Rita replied, mimicking Crotty’s phony smile. “And you, Kreider, you need to just shut the hell up.”
Gesturing gently with his hand toward JoAnne, Crotty said, “Shall we?”
As they approached, JoAnne saw Crotty coming. She immediately turned and sat in the wing chair for the first time all night. Pat had not been able to hear the confrontation between Crotty and Rita but knew that there had indeed been one and that it probably did not go well. She moved closer to JoAnne as if for moral support. Martone had also noticed what had transpired and hurried toward them. He wanted nothing to go wrong and quietly halted the line of well-wishers to create some space between them and JoAnne.
Crotty extended his hand toward JoAnne as he approached. “I’m terribly sorry for your loss, Mrs. DiMatteo,” he said a bit too loudly.
“Thank you,” JoAnne said, looking up but not actually at Crotty. When she purposely did not get out of her chair or extend her hand to Crotty, he casually raised his arm up as though he were wiping away a tear. Rita and Pat both noticed and admired JoAnne’s ability to send messages without actually doing anything.
Unfazed, Crotty pressed on. “If there is anything I or my office can do to help you in this horrible time, please be sure to—”
“I know you’re a very busy man, Mr. Mayor, so don’t feel obliged to stay too long,” JoAnne abruptly said, interrupting him in mid-sentence. “And please, by all means, don’t take time away from your work with the city to come to the funeral tomorrow. Surely both Phillip and I would think that best.”
Pat and Rita had all they could do to not cheer out loud at JoAnne’s elegant way of dismissing Crotty.
Crotty nodded, stepped back, and moved toward Phillip’s casket to stand for a moment, pretending to offer up a prayer. After a few seconds, he noticed Rita approaching. He made a half-hearted sign of the cross and walked toward the rear of the room, nodding and gesturing diplomatically to the many still seated in the folding chairs, but to no one in particular. Kreider was close behind as they exited the same way as they entered.
As soon as they left the room, JoAnne got up out of the chair to again resume her courtesies to those in the long line that remained.
“Rat bastard,” Rita whispered in Pat’s ear.
“You’re too kind,” Pat whispered back.
JoAnne spent the next several days alone, tormented and still in disbelief that Phillip was gone. She spent far too much time wondering what could have been. In her lonely hours, she blamed herself for allowing Phillip to get involved in Troy politics and she got angry at herself for actually helping him win the election. She wished she had just followed her instincts and convinced Phillip to not get involved. She missed him deeply.
As her lonely hours turned into lonely days, JoAnne found herself lost in her memories. She let herself become absorbed in detailed flashbacks of the unforeseeable twists and turns her life with him had taken since Phillip decided to take on Michael Crotty and the Democratic Machine by running for mayor.
Up until that time, their lives together had been all that she had ever dreamed of. She and Phillip were happy each day to be running the Fam Pharm and to be around their many friends. They took pride in their successful business and in being able to provide a valuable service to their South Troy neighbors. They took a personal interest in all of their customers and were ubiquitous in the community. They donated generously to every call for support.
The Fam Pharm van, which delivered prescriptions to the elderly and homebound, was on the road around town all day, every day. On the counter of the pharmacy was a large glass jar labeled, “Change for our Neighborhood,” into which customers could make a contribution. Every month, the DiMatteos would count the donations, match the amount, and use the funds to pay for prescriptions for those in need of help.
Phillip was president of the local Marconi Club for many years, and JoAnne was the first female chairperson of the Troy Rotary Club. They were “patrons” of the Troy Music Hall, the South Troy Boys and Girls Club, the United Way of Troy, and founding members of the South Troy Neighborhood Watch Program. If ever there were true pillars of any community, Phillip and JoAnne were that in theirs. They loved what they were doing to make a difference.
And so, it was with great trepidation that JoAnne learned that Phillip had been approached by a number of local business owners and the Republican Party to run against six-term Mayor Michael Crotty. With a city-wide voter registration that was nearly eighty percent Democrat, Democrats had held power in Troy for nearly forty years.
Crotty, a career politician with no discernible skill set, began his career by winning a seat on the city council at the age of twenty-four with the backing of the Democratic Party. That support came as a reward for Crotty being a member and then Chairman of the Young Democrats—the “farm team” for future Troy politicians, dedicated solely to perpetuating political control. To be elected to any position in Troy politics, one only needed to get the Democratic endorsement. In most elections, that candidate ran unopposed.
Such was the case with Crotty when, at the age of thirty-six, he was first elected Mayor of Troy, thus becoming forever in debt to the democratic machine. He was tapped by the party after the four-term sitting mayor, Pat Powers, dropped dead while holding sway at his “reserved” bar stool at the far end of the Excalibar. The Excalibar was the home-away-from-home for all Democratic politicians in the city where, for decades, deals were made and the machine rolled on.
On that fateful night, Mayor Powers suddenly started to cough, wheeze, and clutch his throat after downing a clam shooter. He fell off his bar stool and choked to death on the floor while two dozen regulars looked on. No one stepped in to aid the choking mayor, and he died well before the EMTs arrived. The talk of who the new mayor might be began even before Powers’s body arrived at the morgue.
After a few days of bickering, the party leaders unanimously chose Michael Crotty to succeed Powers, mostly based on his unique ability to play the role of flunky for the old-line party officials. They recognized that Crotty had just the right combination of loyalty and obliviousness to do whatever they wanted and to blithely take the fall if anything turned bad.
As usual, the leadership’s political instincts were spot on. Over the remainder of Powers’s term, Crotty proved to be willing to bend, break, fake, flaunt, or otherwise ignore both the law and any sense of propriety in ruling the city. If anything surprised them about his tenure, it was his uncanny knack of finding new ways to spread corruption even deeper into the fabric of the city.
Michael Crotty epitomized how and why the system worked in Troy for so many years. The party leaders easily controlled him, and the populace dared not cross him. His prowess at retribution became legendary and feared, his willingness to do anything to stay in power knew no bounds. The patronage system was his natural habitat.
Running unopposed, Crotty was re-elected six consecutive times over the following twelve years. As the party, the system, and the Crotty “machine” rolled on, it seemed inconceivable to the Democratic leadership that anyone would even dare run against him, and they believed that no one could unseat him.
For the first time in decades, their political instincts were wrong.
The Crotty regime had gotten clearly out of hand over his time in office. Since Crotty was only forty-eight years old, previously quiet but fed-up city residents and business leaders alike knew that things would continually get worse and that, without serious opposition, he would remain mayor for years to come. Crotty never really bothered to campaign in any of elections, but shortly before his so-called “campaign for re-election” for his seventh term began, a small but determined group of carefully selected Troy business leaders began to quietly meet to discuss what amounted to a secret attack on city hall. Among them was Phillip DiMatteo.
What started out as a series of complaint sessions about local government in general, and Crotty in particular, soon escalated into a genuinely hopeful series of serious meetings about ending the decades-long corruption that was smothering the city. The group, twelve in all, was comprised of well-intended, well-connected, well-respected, and wealthy business leaders, who went from wishing, to hoping, to planning for Crotty’s defeat in the upcoming election. The meetings became more frequent and more focused. The group had a clear goal: to defeat Crotty and rid city hall of corruption. They called themselves “The Gang of Twelve.”
They believed they could succeed because of several assumptions which they discussed at length: that Crotty was a crook—and nobody likes a crook except other crooks—and a majority of the people were not crooks. Despite the fact that eighty percent of the voters in the city were registered Democrats, only an extremely small percentage of them cared much for Crotty and very few of them actually voted in the mayoral elections since everyone assumed that the conclusions were foregone.
The Gang also believed that the ethnic neighborhoods of Troy, unlike the inner city, would overwhelmingly support the right candidate if they thought there was a reasonable chance to unseat the machine. Lastly, they were certain that the Crotty government had no clue as to how to actually run a campaign against a legitimate contender since they had never had to do so.
These fundamentals caused the group to believe that a strong, last minute, well-funded, and organized campaign founded on overthrowing corruption in government and led by a respected and trusted candidate, well known in the neighborhoods, could succeed. Phillip DiMatteo was their unanimous choice to be that candidate. The entire Gang, including Phillip, were excited by the potential of unseating Crotty. They also knew that before that could happen, Phillip would have to get JoAnne to agree to have him run. Above all else, Phillip and JoAnne were a team. Looking back, JoAnne vividly recalled Phillip’s rather clumsy effort to get her on board…
“Are you ever going to ask me about all those meetings I’ve been going to at Fippi’s?” he said to JoAnne one evening while clearing the table after dinner.
Fippi Casella was the owner of a beer distributorship located in South Troy. It had a large employee lunch room in the back and The Gang of Twelve had been secretly meeting there for weeks.
“You know I don’t ask questions like that,” JoAnne replied in a matter-of-fact way, without looking up from the newspaper.
Each night, JoAnne would prepare dinner while Phillip looked at the paper. After dinner, Phillip would clear the table while JoAnne read the paper.
“I just thought you’d be curious, that’s all. I’ve been spending a lot of time there lately. Aren’t you curious?” he asked, clearly begging the question.
“Did you see in the paper that Maggie Ormond’s boy, Joey, made the dean’s list at Rutgers? Joey Ormond is in college. I can’t believe it. I remember him when he was a little boy. He always got earaches, remember? Maggie was in the shop this morning, did you see her?”
“Uh, no. No, I didn’t,” Phillip replied, annoyed that JoAnne had not taken the bait about the meetings at Casella’s. “I’m going back to Fippi’s again Friday night for a while. I just thought you should know.”
With that, JoAnne folded the paper and looked up at Phillip as he returned to the table. “Okay fine, it’s obvious you’re dying to get me to ask. So, darling, I’ve been meaning to ask you, what’s been going on at all those meetings you been going to at Fippi’s?” she said, in a pleasant and playfully sarcastic tone.
It unnerved Phillip sometimes how easily she could read him. “Well, since you asked,” he said with a wry smile. “I’ve been meeting with a working group—I guess you’d call it that—to see if we can do something about getting Michael Crotty out of office.”
JoAnne’s eyes widened as she took off her reading glasses and looked up at Phillip. This clearly got her attention. “You mean other than by feeding him some clam shooters at Excalibar?”
They both grinned.
“Yes, some way other than that.”
“We think he can be beaten in the November election by the right candidate with the right team behind him.”
“Behind him?” she asked as though to mock Phillip’s political incorrectness.
“Of course, I mean him or her. But we’ve actually been thinking of a him.”
“Well…” He paused as though reluctant to answer.
JoAnne’s mouth fell wide open. “Oh, no, don’t even tell me that you mean him as in you! No, no, no, no! Don’t you dare stand there in my presence and tell me that you’ve totally lost your mind.”
Phillip knew that the game was on and there was no turning back now. “Now wait, Jo. Don’t get all opinionated before you hear the plan.”
“The plan? Plan? Phillip, my love, no matter what the plan is, if it involves you running for mayor, I hate it!” She was getting louder but not angry.
“Without even hearing it, you hate it?”
“Yes, that’s exactly right. Without even hearing the plan, I hate it. Do you know why? Let me explain, Phillip. If the plan is bad, you lose, and Crotty will make our lives miserable forever for running against him. If the plan is good, you win and then you’ll actually have to be mayor. How can either of these be good for you, or for us? What about the business? Win or lose, we are all doomed if you so much as even enter this race. Please don’t tell me we’re diving into the political cesspool. Please, I beg you, don’t tell me that. I’ll follow you to the end of the earth, Phillip, but please don’t get us involved in politics. You know I think it’s all slimy. I hate politics!”
Phillip was in awe of how she had assessed the situation so quickly and given him a logical and legitimate reason why he should not get involved before he had even asked the question. But he was prepared. “You’re exactly right—”
“Thank you,” she interrupted. “Now did you say you did or didn’t see Maggie Ormond come into the store today? And by the way, is Rutgers in New Jersey? I think it is.”
Phillip was having none of JoAnne’s ploy of changing the subject. “What I meant was, you’re exactly right about Crotty and his band of merry crooks being slimy. I agree. But that’s the point! They’re slimy politicians who need to be removed from office. That’s why this is important. I think—no, we all think—that I can run them out. And we think it’s worth the effort.”
For several seconds nothing was said. JoAnne was holding her head with her hands, just staring at nothing. Finally, she got up from the table and went around to where Phillip was still sitting. From behind him, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. In a gentle voice, she said, “Phillip, honey, if you’ve already decided you’re going to do this, tell me now and don’t insult me by pretending I have some say in it. Will you do that for me?”
He nodded as a sign that he understood. “I need you to help me to decide what to do. And then I need you to help me to live with that decision, whatever it is.”
She walked slowly toward the kitchen and, without looking back, she said, “We’ll talk about the plan, but not tonight. Tomorrow after dinner we’ll talk about it. Not tonight. Tonight, I’d just like some wine. Be a doll and break open a bottle of Pinot, will you? Let’s the two of us drink a little wine and talk about the weather.”
As brief and indecisive as this first conversation was, the one the following night was extremely long and quite decisive. Phillip spoke passionately about the frustration with the Crotty administration. JoAnne learned who was involved with The Gang of Twelve. She listened intently to the logic of why Crotty was vulnerable. She heard the strategy and finally, how Phillip had carefully been chosen to be the face of reform for the city. They discussed it all in great detail.
JoAnne, in turn, voiced her concern about retribution in the event of a failed attempt. She was also quite concerned about Phillip actually winning, becoming mayor, and effectively leaving her to run the Fam Pharm. She was worried about the demands on his time and general wear and tear on him both mentally and physically. And the mere thought of getting involved with politics was abhorrent to her. They discussed her concerns, likewise, in great detail.
No matter how hard she tried to see Phillip’s perspective, deep down, JoAnne hated the idea. But she could tell that this was something that Phillip felt a calling to do, something he needed to do. Yes, Phillip had asked her opinion as to what he should do, but she knew that for his sake what she needed to do was different from what she wanted to do.
In the end, Phillip said, “Let’s do this, Jo.”
She sighed an exaggerated sigh. “This is a mistake, Phillip. I absolutely hate politics and the idea of you getting involved in this, but I admire you for wanting to make a difference. If this is what you really want, we’ll do it. We’ll do it together,” she said.
Phillip smiled a knowing smile. “You’re the best,” he said while gently gripping her hand.
JoAnne got up and looked toward the ceiling as though she was looking for divine intervention. “You’re not going to actually win, are you?” she asked somewhat playfully.
“I was afraid you were going to say that.”
The Gang of Twelve put all of their energies behind Phillip’s campaign, which hit the ground running and caught a shocked Crotty and his cohorts flatfooted. The well-funded and organized DiMatteo campaign plan worked exactly as planned. They had accurately calculated Crotty’s weaknesses and exploited them. Phillip ran on a platform of anti-corruption and vowed to clean up city government and its system of favoritism, fear mongering, and cronyism. They worked the neighborhoods hard, going door to door to get out the vote.
As reluctant as she was to get involved in politics, JoAnne hit the campaign circuit along with Phillip. She focused on women’s issues and getting out the female vote. She appeared and gave speeches everywhere and anywhere she could and consistently depicted Crotty as being, as she called it, “female oblivious,” pointing out that there were exactly zero women in leadership positions in Crotty’s government.
As a part of his agreement with JoAnne about running for office, Phillip publicly vowed to be a one-term mayor whose sole purpose during his term would be to rid the government of corruption and return the election process to one of a true democracy. The campaign depicted Phillip as the best and maybe last chance to clean up city hall. By the time the Crotty camp realized they were in trouble, it was too late. They had no idea how to respond to a serious challenge.
On election day, there was a huge turnout from the neighborhoods. Women, especially, who had never voted in the past, overwhelmingly supported Phillip and, by inference, JoAnne. Predictably, there was a small turnout from the inner city. As the Gang had assumed, the crooks were outnumbered and, when given a real chance to topple the regime, the people did it. Phillip won the election handily. He would be the first non-Democratic mayor in four decades.
While the people of Troy felt it was a new day and the dawn of something good, JoAnne felt her life—a life that she loved—would never be the same. She was right.
© 2019 by Ken Bessette