Island life is nothing new to Gabriella Camilleri, who has been living on the Vineyard for close to 40 years.
Camilleri is a self-described shy person, but is excited about her position as assistant town clerk, and is looking forward to the challenges ahead by seeking the permanent position in the May 9 town election. “I feel very good,” she said. “It’s been a new challenge for me.”
She first came to the Island after graduating from high school, and has been here ever since, working and living in different different towns on the Island. For the past five years, she has settled in Aquinnah.
Camilleri’s most recent job was with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), working as the education director’s assistant. Her time there made her familiar with many Aquinnah residents.
Camilleri’s experience in town government comes from her current position with the Aquinnah cemetery commission, and former tenure with the Edgartown planning board’s economic development task force and the Edgartown shellfish committee.
She also currently works at Loon Farm in Chilmark as the head gardener.
Camilleri was appointed to the position by her predecessor, Carolyn Feltz, who has held the position of town clerk for the past 13 years. Feltz is acting as a trainer for Camilleri, teaching her the ins and outs of the job until a new town clerk is voted in during the May town election. Camilleri is running and other interested Aquinnah residents can still throw their hat into the ring if they want to run for town clerk.
Feltz was elected last year for a three-year term, but decided to retire on Feb. 2 for personal reasons. Camilleri started as Feltz’s assistant the week before.
Both the town clerk and assistant town clerk positions are funded by the town. Town administrator Jeffrey Madison told the Times the assistant position was created because they knew Feltz was retiring and that there was “enough money in the budget to fund the assistant position.”
Camilleri said she had “very big shoes to fill,” citing Feltz’s long tenure.
Since starting as assistant town clerk, Camilleri has been learning the ropes at town hall and taking in all the knowledge Feltz has to offer, which is quite a lot.
“I had a lot of jobs,” Feltz said with a laugh, referring to her many duties at town hall, including parking lot supervisor, and administrative assistant to the building inspector.
After a few weeks in training, Camilleri is now mostly working on her own, currently putting together the town census and creating a ballot for the town elections in May.
The special town meeting on March 6 was Camilleri’s first town event in her new position, and she joked she “did OK,” and that she is not a night person.
Feltz described the position as one that required lots of listening and neutrality, especially when opposing views come to a head. “Each person has a valid point of view,” she said. “Everybody who has an opinion has an opinion with the town’s best interests in mind.”
Camilleri shared a similar sentiment, saying there are “a lot of passionate members of this town who care about how things go.”
Feltz and Camilleri have been working well as town clerk and assistant town clerk, exemplified by their shared admiration of each other.
“Gabriella will be a great fit,” Feltz said.
“Carolyn is a great teacher and a wonderful mentor,” Camileri replied.
Feltz is not the only town hall member excited about Camilleri. Town administrator Jeffery Madison said he felt great about Camilleri: “I support her 100 percent.”
Selectman Jim Newman was also happy with the potential town clerk: “I have known her for a while. I’m very excited about it. She’s a wonderful community person.”
Camilleri’s name will appear on the Aquinnah town ballot on May 9, and if elected, she will finish out the two years on Feltz’s term. Feltz will still frequent town hall due to her other duties, and will be available to Camilleri.
“I love helping people,” Camilleri said. “I love how different each of the towns are, and each has its own personalities, but it really is one Island.”