Count Wiley, the West New York Commissioner of Parks and Public Property, says that when he found out in a 2010 town meeting that taxes would be raised 52 percent, he was appalled.
Wiley’s bachelor’s degree is in political science, but he had spent the past 10 years working as a chiropractor until doctor (and current mayor) Felix Roque called upon him to take a stand against the past administration.
In 2010, Wiley and Roque launched a recall election against then-mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega. The attempt failed due to a technicality, but their slate achieved a surprise election upset against Vega in May of 2011.
But a year later, things changed again. In May of 2012, Roque and his son Joseph were arrested by the F.B.I. on charges of allegedly hacking into a website politically opposed to the mayor. Roque was formally indicted last week.
In June, Roque and the majority of the five-member board voted to reassign each commissioner to a new department, removing Wiley from the Department of Public Works, and it was the last straw, he said. That’s when he decided to attempt a recall election for the second time in only two years.
“It was a decision to be someone who will finally take responsibility for the town.” – Count Wiley
In West New York’s form of government, five people run as a slate of commissioners. After their election, they appoint one of themselves mayor. Each commissioner is in charge of a department, as a part-time job.
Wiley said he wants to remove Roque as mayor, and then take over his position.
Confronting his past
Now Wiley will be the one scrutinized if he runs for mayor. Rumors have run rampant since the last election that he once danced in a strip club.
“I’m never going to lie to the people, so I’ll be honest,” he responded last week. “When I was 19, I had a cousin who did it and he said it was a quick way to make a dollar.”
So Wiley danced exactly twice, he said, before he decided it was not for him.
“I’m a Christian, I’m a professional, and I’m a doctor,” Wiley said. “I was so young and it was nothing I liked, and it was something I did that has no bearing on who I am today.”
After receiving a degree in political science from East Stroudsberg University, Wiley fell nine credits short of a master’s in Public Administration from Farleigh Dickinson when he realized a career in that field was also not for him.
“I went in to the dean after I got my first pay check and said, ‘Is this all I get?’ ” Wiley chuckled. “One of the main reasons I decided to become a doctor was because no one can tell me I can only make so much money no matter how hard you work. I love what I do as a doctor, but I need to know that I can provide for my family.”
Wiley became a chiropractor. He made a pass at a position in the State Assembly at 27 years old, won the primary, but lost the final election.
Now, as a commissioner, a chiropractor, and a soon-to-be licensed and certified acupuncturist, Wiley has his sights officially set on becoming the mayor of West New York.
His largest goal is to return the power back to the people and to remove politics from the business of running a town.
“Politics is when you deal with senators and freeholders and assembly people,” he said. “The town must be run like a business and there is no place for politics in that. When you labor hard, your fruits will show.”
What it takes to run a recall
To set a recall election into motion, Wiley must get signatures from 25 percent of registered voters in town. To obtain the signatures, he must ask several local registered voters, or “petition holders,” to go door to door.
Each page of signatures must be certified by a notary public, and all of the signatures must be submitted to the town clerk for review.
The clerk will then set up a signature review committee to make sure they are valid. If the required 25 percent is approved, the entire package is then sent to the county, who then sends out ballots for prospective mayoral candidates and the recall election may begin.
The whole process takes over three months, Wiley said, and anyone can run for mayor in the new election.
“I’m not threatened by anybody,” he explained. “I know what my record is, and I’ve been fighting for these people for four years. The community has been in touch more and more; not because I’ve been a good commissioner, but because I’ve been a great commissioner.”
Wiley will officially launch his campaign at the Knights of Columbus on 111 60th St. on Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org