Bellitto To Retire From Comptroller Position
If you had the choice between working with numbers or people, what would you choose?
For Joseph Bellitto, he chose both.
Today is Bellitto’s last day as the Jamestown comptroller after 30 years of public service. When asked by The Post-Journal what was his favorite aspect of the numbers-crunching job, Bellitto said the people he’s worked with for the past three decades.
“What I’ve liked most about the job is all the people I’ve worked with. All the (Jamestown) City Council members, which certainly all had their own style. I’ve enjoyed working with all of them,” he said. “We’ve had some terrific department heads. I’ve worked with six police chiefs and, I believe, the same number of fire chiefs. I’ve only worked with two (Department of Public Works) directors.”
Bellitto said, most of all, he has enjoyed working with his colleagues in the finance department. He said most of them have been long-term employees who eventually have or will retire from the city.
“We’ve had a terrific dedicated staff in finance,” he said. “A lot of people working very hard for the city and I’m proud of the people who’ve worked in the finance department.”
The whole time Bellitto has been a city employee he has been the comptroller. He started his career in the public sector after working 10 years in the private sector — two and half years with the accounting firm Seidman & Seidman and then at Nuttall Equipment Company for about eight years. Bellitto became the comptroller when Joe Bzdak was promoted to director of finance, which is now a defunct position in city government.
“Joe took over as director of finance and I slipped into comptroller,” he said.
During Bellitto’s tenure, he has worked with five mayors — Donald Ahlstrom and Carolyn Seymour each for two years; Richard Kimball Jr. for six years; Sam Teresi for 20 years; and Eddie Sundquist for the past six months. When asked by The Post-Journal what made Bellitto an effective comptroller, Teresi said, with affection and as a positive comment on Bellitto’s character, that he was a “born cheapskate” and “tightwad.”
“He treated the taxpayer’s dollar like it was his own,” Teresi said. “He treated the public’s money like it was his own money, and that is who you want in that position.”
Teresi said he worked with Bellitto during most of the past 30 years. First as the department of development director and then as mayor. He said he even knew Bellitto before working together at City Hall because they both played basketball at the Jamestown Area YMCA.
“He is not only one of the best people I’ve ever worked with, but he is also one of the best people I’ve known. Period,” Teresi said. “I’ve always said no one is irreplaceable. There are good people out there all over, but Joe is as close as irreplaceable as they come.”
Anthony Dolce, city council president, has spent his whole 25-year tenure as councilman working with Bellitto. Dolce said Bellitto has been the consummate professional and invaluable asset to the city.
“(Bellitto) was always someone you could go to and he would be very open and honest. He was a guy who told you how it was, and these are the numbers and the decisions you have to make,” Dolce said. “It was an honor and a privileged to work with him for all of these years. He will be sorely missed.”
Bellitto was originally scheduled to retire in March, but the search for his replacement took a little longer than anticipated. Because of that delay, Bellitto now has been involved in the most challenging days of his career because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on sales tax revenues and state aid on the city’s budget. In a city where finances have been a challenge for the past 30 years with recessions and downturns in the stock market, Bellitto said “absolutely” the most critical time of his professional life has been the past three months dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had cuts in state aid and downturns in the economy before that would affect sales tax revenues a small percentage, but this time it’s affecting sales tax greatly. It’s also affecting parking violations revenue, parking ramp and lot revenues, city clerk fees, building permits. You name it, it’s affecting a lot of revenue lines,” he said. “I didn’t stay longer because of (COVID-19), but I’m glad I stayed. As it turned out, I think I was helpful to the mayor and Ryan (Thompson, deputy comptroller).”
Bellitto said Thompson will be replacing him as the city’s comptroller. Bellitto said, as part of the selection committee, he assisted in selecting Thompson because he reminds him of a younger version of himself.
“We were basically the same age when we started working for the city. He had 10 years of prior experience in the private sector. He has a good flavor of business and accounting. He handles himself very maturely,” Bellitto said. “I think the mayor, the transition team leader and myself all felt the same.”
In retirement, Bellitto said he will be spending more time with his family, which includes his wife, Leigh Ann; his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, Vanessa, Marty and Celine Baker; and son, Sebastian, who is about to graduate as a doctor from the University of Rhode Island School of Physical Therapy. Also, Bellitto said he will be spending time with his dog, Roscoe.
“I have a 7-month-old granddaughter and daughter and son-in-law in Pittsburgh, we plan to go down there and spend more time with them,” he said. “I’m also going to work on my golf game and my wife has a lot of projects around the house for me, too.”