The last time Tony Scarcella stepped down from council, he wasn’t ready for retirement. After several decades running his own restaurant and nine years in council, he wanted to have more time to spend with his family and going on holiday.
His idleness didn’t last – after a year he bought a new business, Revelstoke Bottlers, and six years after, he made a return to council.
Now, after two more terms at the council table, he decided it’s time to take a step back.
“It was one day before election time that I decided to retire because I wanted to spend more time with my family and travel,” Scarcella told me at his home last week. “That was a hard decision for me, because I didn’t accomplish what I had in mind.”
Scarcella was first elected to council in 1993. After many years running his restaurant Tony’s Roma (not to be confused with the chain Tony Roma’s) and being active in the community, he decided to step into local politics. He wanted to bring his business experience to the council table.
“The City of Revelstoke is a big business and I thought I could bring lots to the table with my experience,” he said. “I was a successful business person, and the city is a big business.”
He also sought to listen to all residents and tax payers. “That’s why I got involved, to make a better Revelstoke.”
A pressing issue was the need for a new water treatment plant; Scarcella, as chair of the public works committee, said he helped secure provincial funding to help pay for the new water treatment plant at Greeley.
Mostly though, he said council was focused on how to make Revelstoke a better place to live, how to attract families. Issues like recreation, education and health care were front and centre.
“Also, we had aging infrastructure, and we worked on that,” he said. “We expanded the sewer to the Illecillewaet River. We were working on the swimming pool and the police station.”
Scarcella spent three terms on council, stepping down in 2002 with the intention of retiring. He sold his restaurant, but he wasn’t ready to retire so he bought a new business.
“After I sold my business I thought I’d go golfing and on holiday and I’d be happy, but I wasn’t,” he said.
After five more years running Revelstoke Bottlers, he sold it and decided to get back on council. “I was really into council and I thought I made a difference the first nine years, and I felt that if I run, I’d make a difference again,” he said.
Scarcella was elected for a fourth term in 2008, and then re-elected in 2011 with the most votes of any councillor. Throughout the past six years, his main agenda has been to control spending and lower taxes. Often he felt like he was the lone voice fighting for restraint.
“My pride was I had the backing from the people, and that’s what kept me there fighting,” he said. I knew the people trusted me, and I had to deliver what I believed in.”
Despite the fact he was often the lone no vote, often butting heads with Mayor David Raven, he still feels he made a difference and that his consistent advocacy for controlling spending had an impact.
“I had the backing of the people, council could not ignore me,” he said. “They watched me, so with my voice, we did accomplish something.”
His concern was Revelstoke was becoming too expensive for people to live in, and the town would keep losing people. He said he knows lots of people that have moved away.
“Sure, it’s a great place to live, but we have to make it affordable,” he said. “If we don’t make it affordable, it doesn’t matter how good a place it is to live, people can’t stay here.”
Scarcella said he feels this election is the most important one in the past decade and it will set the direction of the city for the next century.
He is supporting Mark McKee in the mayors race. The two posed together in Grizzly Plaza last week. “I’ve known Mark for a long time and he believes in what I’ve been saying all along — that we need to cap spending, less tax and look after our debts,” said Scarcella.
He wants the new council to focus on cutting taxes, or at least limiting increases to the rate of inflation. Infrastructure is also a major issue for him and spending should be focused on that area.
“I urge people to go vote and make sure they vote for the future of this town,” he said.
As for himself, this time he will be taking it easy. He plans on spending three months this winter in Arizona and also wants to spend more time with his children and grandchildren.