December 17 – Happy Birthday Frank Martuscello

Martuscello2The mid 1950’s were not a particularly great time for becoming Mayor of Amsterdam, NY. Bigelow-Sanford had closed its rug production facilities in the city and Mohawk was on the precipice of doing the same. The pearl buttons made at the Chalmers factory on the north side of the Mohawk River had been replaced with zippers and plastic alternatives and the New York City-based owners of the old Chalmers knitting mill on the South Side of Amsterdam were about to abandon it in favor of more union-free labor pastures. All this economic turmoil however did not stop Frank Martuscello from seeking the City’s highest office.

The native-born lawyer was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Martuscello. He came into this world on December 17, 1912 and grew up on Gardiner Street. He graduated from Lynch High School in 1930 and then Syracuse University. By 1942, he had completed Albany Law School, gained admission to the New York State Bar and had become an associate of Amsterdam attorney James L. Doyle. After serving his Country during WWII, he hung out his own shingle and quickly became the “Legal God” of his native West End. Sixty five years before the TV show “Breaking Bad” made the phrase “Better Call Saul” famous, Italian-American families in that Amsterdam neighborhood would tell each other “We better call Frank” whenever they needed any form of legal assistance.

As many attorneys still do, Martuscello got involved in community activities and local politics pretty quickly, beginning with his appointment to a vacant school board seat. He then ran successfully for that Board position when his partial term expired. He resigned from that seat in 1950, when he was appointed Commissioner of Montgomery County’s Board of Elections. By then he had also become a pretty significant player in the local Republican Party.

In 1955, that Party nominated him to be the GOP standard bearer in that year’s Amsterdam Mayoral election. By then, the candidate and his wife, the former Willetta Cady, were the parents of four children and living on Market Street. Republican Burtiss Deal was the incumbent and County Republican Chair at the time, Walter Going’s goal was to let Deal retire, avoid a primary and unite his party behind Martuscello. That’s exactly what happened. Meanwhile the fight for the Democratic nomination turned into a three-way donnybrook with another Amsterdam attorney, John Mycek winning the primary nod over City Assessor Carmel Wolf and yet another lawyer, Joe Jacobs.

Martuscello beat Mycek that November by around 1,700 votes and…

You can read the rest of my story about this former Amsterdam mayor in my new book “A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam Birthdays.” To order your copy, click here.

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