April 15, 2020
Take it from someone who has spent more time around local politicians than is healthy for anybody—Mike Ciolfi was one in a million.
There are certain personality types that are drawn to politics, and to local politics in particular. The worst are the small, petty men (and women), who, once elected and get a taste of power, become ever smaller, ever more petty, their righteous obstinance a malignant hindrance to governing, even to cordial relations with their colleagues.
At the other end of the spectrum are those whose hearts seem big enough to welcome the whole world, people who make themselves available not just when called but when needed, without fanfare or pretense, desiring neither to be in the spotlight nor pretending a false modesty in avoiding it.
Ciolfi was a big man, with giant hands, and an infinitely huge heart. His reach extended far beyond Pelham, through work and family, as evidenced by the Voice website repeatedly crashing Monday as the story of his passing was read by thousands of visitors. The views now stand at an astonishing 46,000-plus.
I can’t remember a single occasion that Ciolfi did not have the courtesy to reply to a Voice inquiry or request for comment. Sometimes—though rarely—it was to apologize for not being able to respond in as much detail as he would have liked. The most recent example was a week ago, when I sent him a short email expressing my hope that he was feeling better. I knew that he had been tested for COVID-19, but he did not yet know the result. In his reply, part of which we quoted in last week’s paper, Ciolfi mentioned the test, and that he was not feeling well enough to participate in last Monday’s council meeting, even from his own home by video. We did not mention the virus test in the story, looking to protect his privacy. He was self-isolating at home, following the rules.
As far as I ever saw or heard, Ciolfi treated his council colleagues and Town staff with respect. He acknowledged expertise beyond his own. While I was aware that he and the Cannabis Control Committee differed with Town staff on some particulars of the CCC’s proposed bylaws, to my knowledge Ciolfi did not take personal offense at these differences, nor accuse staff of acting in bad faith.
Interviewed by the Voice during the 2018 campaign, Ciolfi mentioned how much he appreciated various aspects of life in Pelham, speaking to our reporter at his in-laws’ sprawling farm in Fenwick. The story noted that Ciolfi had never consulted with or complained to the Town about any issue close to home, and he added even if he had, he wouldn’t be “bad-mouthing anyone.” Infighting was counter-productive and not his style, he said, adding, “I’m not combative. I’ve learned to work with people’s strengths, not their weaknesses.”
Rest in peace, Mike. You will be sorely missed.