The Verona Chamber of Commerce started the year with new leadership, but it didn’t last long. Steve Amadeo, the owner of Miele’s Restaurant, has stepped down as president and Joe Arminio, a musician who is behind several ventures in town, has relinquished his post as executive secretary.
Amadeo said he had tried to bring new ideas to the chamber but had been repeatedly rebuffed by its three-member board of trustees. The trustees, whose names are not disclosed on the Chamber’s Web site, include Dr. Thomas E. Malanga and Scott Drukker, who also served as the chamber’s vice president and promotions director, respectively, under Amadeo. “There was very strong resistance to being proactive,” Amadeo said. “Members wanted change, but my hands were tied.”
The breaking point apparently was resistance to “Fall for Verona”, an event being organized by Debbie Curran Galife, the owner of Main Street Cottage, and realtor Coleen D’Alessandro. They had planned the event, which was to have been held October 20, as a family-friendly day of activities like a petting zoo, pumpkin picking and bobbing for apples, and had received a promise of $2,500 in support from town government.
That seemed to be a sign that fences were being mended. Amadeo took over the chamber’s leadership after it had created a rift with the town over free parking on Bloomfield Avenue during the holidays. Last December, Malanga, then the chamber’s president, publicly criticized the town for not covering meters to make parking free, even though in previous years he had asked for meters to not be covered. At the chamber’s first mixer under Amadeo, with Mayor Frank Sapienza in attendance, Malanga repeated his criticism of holiday parking, further alienating town officials.
In a meeting yesterday afternoon, the chamber reorganized its leadership. The names were posted to its Web site Wedensday morning and e-mailed to this reporter at 10:15 a.m. But at 12:30 p.m., Drukker, an ad salesman for The Verona-Cedar Grove Times, called to say that the board was not ready to announce the new leadership. “We are still in a liquid state,” he said. “We are looking to reorganize. Steve and Joe went their own way for their own reasons.”
Amadeo and Arminio remain committed to business development in Verona. Arminio is working on a new project to use the town’s history as a springboard for new business and tourism. Amadeo noted that, while Verona’s established businesses may not need the help of a business development group, the same may not be true for its newcomers. “At the end of the day,” he said, “the new businesses in town are the ones who get hurt.”