An Uncommon Man

Alfred B. DelBello was an uncommon man. Most people remember him as a public servant – Mayor of Yonkers, Westchester County Executive and Lieutenant Governor in the Mario Cuomo Administration. In recent years, as attorney, strategist, County Association president, deal maker and influencer, he left an indelible mark on Westchester’s landscape.  In the arts community, we remember Al as the rainmaker for the arts.

In 1975, he initiated county support for the arts – a precedent that became a national model.  DelBello realized that by allocating public support, he could affect private support, which he did with the entry of IBM, Pepsi, Texaco and General Foods into the United Arts Fund run by ArtsWestchester (then known as the Council for the Arts in Westchester).  DelBello made the case that the arts were a benefit to corporations and their workforces. Today, governments nationally support the arts for their ability to attract and engage corporations and their employees. For residents, the arts add measurably to the quality of life.  DelBello was a proponent of “private-public” partnerships long before these were part of the common vernacular and long before most government officials understood the benefits of the arts to civic life.

DelBello took on other challenges in the public and private sector after leaving county government, but he remained an advocate for the arts. Some years ago, ArtsWestchester brought together thought leaders to reflect upon the results of a Wallace Foundation study, “The Gifts of the Muse.” DelBello participated on the panel because some thirty odd years after launching the public-private partnership that enabled the nonprofit arts sector to flourish in Westchester, he remained steadfast in his understanding that the arts are a public good. As I said, he was an uncommon man.

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