Former Royal Palm Beach Mayor Matty Mattioli was being remembered this week as a true public servant who dedicated his retirement to the betterment of his community.
Mattioli died Monday, Jan. 22, at age 90, just shy of two years after he stepped down from village government after 22 years on the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, including six years as mayor.
Mattioli was first elected to the Royal Palm Beach Village Council in 1994. He was elected mayor in 2010 and served three two-year terms until retiring in 2016.
Dominic “Matty” Mattioli was born on May 8, 1927, in Bryn Mawr, Penn. He served honorably in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and he was employed by Corning Glass for most of his adult life. Before moving to Royal Palm Beach with his late wife, Marion, Mattioli also served as a local elected official in Pennsylvania.
Friend and local business leader Jess Santamaria believes Mattioli will be long remembered by his adopted hometown, as his loved ones and those who knew him reflect on Mattioli’s life.
“He was one of the longest-serving elected officials in Royal Palm Beach for some 22 years,” Santamaria said. “A true good example of the public servant, who served honorably, solely for Royal Palm Beach, and is one of the main reasons for making the village a great place to live. He’s one of the mainstay foundations of the 22 years that he served and made Royal Palm Beach what it is today.”
Following his devotion to public service, Santamaria said, were his devotion to faith and the Catholic Church.
“He will also be remembered as a very loyal, longtime member of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles,” Santamaria said. “He was a staunch member of the church. He never failed. He was there week after week, day after day, supporting the church from the 1980s to today.”
Someone who immediately agreed with Santamaria relating to Mattioli’s devotion as a parishioner is Father Andy Rudnicki, pastor at Our Lady Queen of the Apostles.
“For me, he was like my grandpa. He was always carrying a positive attitude, and to the point that when [Marion] died, every year, I invited him to come to spend Christmas and Easter with me,” Rudnicki said.
Rudnicki said Mattioli was a man of convictions. “He helped me a lot,” Rudnicki said. “Sometimes when I was discouraged, he came to me and he said, ‘Don’t give up. Go this way, or go this way.’”
Like Santamaria, Rudnicki shared similar sentiments for two things that were part of Mattioli’s makeup.
“I know that God was number one, and being a good mayor was number two,” he said.
Mayor Fred Pinto became a member of the council during Mattioli’s tenure and served with him until picking up the gavel upon Mattioli’s retirement. He recalls feeling a close kinship with Mattioli.
“We both lost our wives within a six-month window of each other, and I kind of understood what he was going through, and he understood what I was going through,” Pinto said. “We developed a different level of bond and friendship having shared that experience.”
Pinto said Mattioli helped him understand the village in his role as a councilman and to further the village, keeping it on the “right track.”
“One of the things that I learned from Matty is that once the decision is made, we all have to own the decision as a group,” Pinto said. “That’s what makes you a team. I still tell people that today.”
Pinto said Mattioli also told him that there will be times when five members of council have differing views on the same issue, but you go through the process, discussing it and sometimes debating it.
“He was part of the key decision for our fire department to go to Palm Beach County, which then expanded the amount of coverage we get for fire-rescue, as opposed to doing it ourselves,” Pinto said. “And that was a very highly debated issue, going to Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue. He was a proponent of that, and, as it turned out, it was a smart move for us to make.”
Pinto said Mattioli was instrumental in shaping the village’s Planning & Zoning Commission, serving as its liaison during his time of service. Mattioli was also supportive of buying the old golf course that would become Royal Palm Beach Commons Park.
“He was level-headed. He always tried to look at all sides of the issue, and he was a key member of the council,” Pinto said.
Village Manager Ray Liggins worked with Mattioli for 16 years. They both grew in their roles at the village level. Liggins started as village engineer and moved on to become the manager. Mattioli served as a councilman, eventually becoming mayor — right about the time Liggins became manager.
Liggins credits Mattioli as one of the council members who saw a vision for Royal Palm Beach as a community centered on family as a whole, and not solely as a retirement community.
“He was one of the senior members of the board — there was a group of younger people who were getting interested in politics and thought the community could be more than a retirement community, and he was part of that transition, and in that transition, the village took on its new logo of the family-oriented community — the logo that we have today,” Liggins said.
Liggins said during Mattioli’s time on the council is when the shift toward enhancing recreation programs began, creating the recreation department, building the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center and the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center, and promising seniors in the community that the tax rate would be maintained.
“It’s really the vision we’re still living with today; a vision of a hometown family community,” Liggins said. “That was what they created more than 25 years ago, and that’s the vision we live with today. I think it serves us very well.”
Dan Splain, chief administrative officer of the NRI Institute of Health Sciences, said he developed a great friendship with Mattioli seven years ago when they happened to have breakfast together at Hilary’s Restaurant in the Royal Plaza.
“I found Matty to be a very fascinating character. I’ve been a student of politics my entire life,” Splain said. “He was not a highly educated man, did not have a college degree, did not have advanced degrees, but was a brilliant tactician and politician, and he was able to reduce civic issues and civic problems to a relatively simple equation.”
Splain shared Mattioli’s philosophy for accomplishing goals in the village, and Splain said it still resonates in Royal Palm Beach today.
“He said, ‘Well, I’m sure people disagree with me. They frequently do, but I’ve got a pretty simple philosophy. I asked myself the question, “Is this idea, is this proposal good, or is it bad, and if it’s good then I’d like to try to get it done,” so I ask the question, “Can we afford it?” And, if we can afford it, I support it. If we can’t, I support it when we find a way to get the money to fund it.’”
Splain believes that due to Mattioli’s efforts, the village will continue to thrive, as the people who run the village today operate it along the lines that he did for more than two decades.
“I think on a civic level, there are many people involved in government here now who are cast in his mold,” Splain said. “And the village will continue to grow and prosper, and I think he would be very proud of what happens over the years.”