It didn’t take long for me to realize that Councillor George V. Colella was a man who didn’t mince words.
He was the kind of man that would look you in the face and tell you without flinching that he thought you were doing a very poor job.
In fact, at one point many years ago when – for several weeks – I hadn’t quoted him or written about his key issues, he approached me at City Hall.
We shook hands.
I asked him how he was doing and he shrugged, seeming disinterested.
“What’s going on around town?” I asked.
“I doubt you would know,” he said, staring me directly in the eye.
“I doubt your paper knows either,” he continued. “Certainly no one is buying your paper to find out. I see an awful lot of them sitting on the shelves at the CVS in Northgate.”
Then he walked away casually before I could get a word in the discussion.
I got the message.
After I had paid him more mind for a few weeks, he made sure to mention to me that the paper was really looking a lot better.
From that day on he affectionately called me, “Seth ol’boy.”
It was trademark George Colella, and I wasn’t the first who had felt his strong stare or his sharp words.
It was his sharp tongue and quick wit that blindsided many people in the Mayor’s Office or in the City Council Chambers.
For that, he was known far and wide.
Many of the uninitiated – lawyers from Boston or representatives from the telephone or cable company – would get the brunt of his comments and then say, “Oh, you must be the one they warned me about.”
I once asked him where he got his sharp wit, especially being that his profession outside of politics was in the insurance business.
He said it was always a strong suit of his, but became more focused in later years when he began watching ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ on Fox News – which became his favorite channel.
“I have had that ability most of my career, for better or worse,” he said at the time. “I’m not sure, though, it’s been one of my strengths all of my lifetime, but it’s increased since I’ve been watching the ‘O’Reilly Factor’ on Fox.”
Some of his greatest quips that quickly came to mind were:
•Recently when he was displeased with Mayor Tom Ambrosino’s proposal to increase water rates by more than 10 percent, he commented, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the people of this city are getting a real hosing.”
•Several years ago, when speaking with a Boston financial attorney about the city’s bond rating, the attorney was waxing poetic for several minutes about the way Wall Street looks at the city’s finances. Colella, having enough of that speech, interrupted and said, “Sir, I don’t care too much about what they’re saying on Wall Street, I care about what they’re saying on Revere Street.”
•Many, many years ago, Mayor Colella was in discussions with members of union leaders – one of whom was being very critical of Colella’s decision to go non-union on one project. The man, who was overweight, told Colella that he was taking food off of the table of working people. Colella retorted, “It doesn’t look like I’ve taken any food off of your table.”
And the list could go on and on.
He did battle with everyone. He took no prisoners in a verbal altercation.
And, more than anything, he always got the last word.