OLEAN, NY— Olean Mayor William Aiello appreciates positive follow-up.
The self-proclaimed “hometown boy” has lawfully wed 83 couples since his term as mayor of the city began on Jan. 1, 2014.
“I have one kid, actually, who every time I see him goes, ‘We’re still married!’ and I say, ‘Keep it going!’ ” Aiello said, laughing.
On any day of the week Aiello offers his free time for joining two people together in lawful wedlock. Typically, a service takes about 15 or 20 minutes.
Aiello has seen a wide variety of couples who come to him unwed and leave married “until death do them part.” He has had women arrive at the Olean Municipal Building in wedding dresses, has seen young children refusing to leave their mothers’ sides during the service and has witnessed many nervous couples taking their vows.
Aiello has been nervous, too, especially at the first wedding he performed.
“Here I am bringing two people together and having them take that solemn oath that they will stay as one, and it was exciting," he recalled with amusement. "I was a bit nervous about it. It was actually a young couple, and the gentleman was going overseas to be deployed, and they wanted to get married before he left. ...I think I probably screwed up on the lines.”
Aiello performs weddings without charging a fee. In order to officiate, he requires that the couple take their vows within the city limits and have a marriage certificate issued at least 24 hours prior to the event.
“There is no cost, but what I do accept is donations which go into the Mayor’s Scholarship Fund,” Aiello said. “When people give a donation it goes into the fund and I give out two scholarships each year. This year we were able to give out two, $250 scholarships with the only criteria being that the recipients are interested in going into business or criminal justice.”
This year both scholarship recipients intend to pursue degrees in business.
“The most someone has contributed has been $200 and the least has been $5. The option is available if couples would like to give,” said Aiello.
Aiello never imagined he would be officiating at weddings – a role that increases his list of jobs and responsibilities since boyhood. He had been a paperboy, spent school summers working for Olean Beer Supply, refereed high school sports and completed a 32-year career in law enforcement.
Aiello said his passion for his hometown Olean community as well as inspiration from a former coworker built his interest in the political arena, eventually leading him to pursue and win the office of mayor.
Eighty-three weddings later, Aiello is expected by some to perform 100 wedding officiations before his first term in office is over on Dec. 31.
Aiello is not 100 percent positive that he will reach that mark.
“I don’t know if I’ll reach 100 weddings this year,” he said. “We need 16 more to reach 100, and I have two more that I know are planned. We’ll see. We are only in May. We might get there.”
He added, “I never dreamed it would be this many, you know? I don’t know if individuals are not having big church weddings anymore or any of that, but I’m happy to provide this service.”
Aiello ensures the Olean community that he is not judgmental and will marry all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or age.
“I will do whatever the law allows me to do,” Aiello said. “If that’s what individuals’ choices are then I respect that.”
Aiello, a sports lover, husband and grandfather to 11, jokingly asked if I planned on getting married any time soon.
And he added that he has had a great career and enjoys the job he is doing today.
“I just love working with people,” Aiello said.