The oldest mayor in America (97!) is running for re-election

  • 13 Nov - 19 Nov, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

When asked what's his secret to remaining vibrant at 97 years old, Vito Perillo smiles and says: "I love my job. It keeps me alive, actually. It keeps me going." Perillo is thought to now be the oldest mayor in America and has no plans of retiring. Seeking a second term in his small New Jersey town – the World War II veteran had never run for office before a shocking upset win (at 93) against a two-term incumbent – he is still going strong. If Perillo wins nonpartisan election against a trio of challengers – including a retired teacher and volunteer, Ellen Goldberg; businessman Michael S. Miles; and Brock Siebert, a councilman – he'll serve until he is 101. Speaking with PEOPLE he said, "The thing about my age is that, when people read about it and hear about it, they're encouraged," he says. "They say, 'If he can do it …' I get a lot of letters. People all over the country, actually." Four years ago, Perillo, motivated by what he felt were high taxes and scandals plaguing the police department, campaigned by knocking on every door in this Jersey Shore town of about 18,000. But this year, "I can't walk the way I used to," he says. Instead, Perillo's campaign manager, a retired postal employee, mailed out 4,000 flyers and hand-delivered another 2,000 – admittedly "quite a comedown from last time," Perillo says.