Imagine attending first grade with the teacher not picking up on the fact that you do not speak English until the first parent teacher meeting, when your Italian-born mother asks, “How is his English coming along?” That was just about the time the now Phoenix District 6 City Councilman, Sal DiCiccio, found out the foreign language everyone was speaking around him in his family’s new desert home after their move from Youngstown, Ohio was really the language of the land – English.
Sal will share that story with you as a point of showing why his father moved the family from Youngstown, where areas of the community saw English as the second language and Italian as prominent on the street and in the homes. Sal’s father, Paul, was quick to point out he moved the family to Phoenix in 1962 “because I want you to grow up as an American.”
In my campaigns my parents would get up at 5 a.m. and go out with me and drop off pamphlets. Then we’d have breakfast at McDonald’s and they kept on going until they had the precinct we were working on that day done. My parents would be out walking until two or three in the afternoon. I had people tell me they wanted to vote for my parents and not me!
Clark H. Caras recently had an opportunity to interview Sal in a question and answer style, which according to Caras was filled with such passion, candor, and excitement for Phoenix it was very easy to see that the councilman’s father, who passed 18 months ago, saw his dream for his son being “American” be realized.
Candidates.vote– Your father and mother might have come to America from Italy with nothing, but it’s obvious they did teach you a strong work ethic like so many carried with them from their homelands.
Sal – Mom and dad really did come here with nothing and they both worked hard their entire lives. Dad was a laborer; a steel worker. His entire life was about us. (DiCiccio is the eldest of three boys.) It drove him crazy I got into politics, but he was a strong American. Home was about an hour and one-half outside of Rome. He saw his home bombed by the Germans and the Allies. They were so proud to be naturalized citizens and call themselves Americans!
Candidates.vote– I’m going to ask you a very American question here Sal. Are you a hamburger or a cheeseburger kinda guy?
Sal– I’m both! Hamburger or cheeseburger. If there’s fat in it, I’ll eat it.
Candidates.vote– Pickles or no pickles?
Sal – No pickles! Why ruin a good thing! And while we’re speaking of that; no ketchup either.
Candidates.vote– What’s the title of either a book we might in your home you are reading, or for that matter, is your favorite book?
Sal– Easy. I read it to my girls again and again. Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” It’s kind of appropriate because it speaks to life and its challenges and the many places you’ll go. About life’s ups and downs and all the problems and successes. It’s perfect because our girls are adopted, but they are a seamless part of the family! We’re not really reading right now though. Anything we are doing right now homework related to the kids and now we’re on numbers and math.
Sal– Back to the hamburgers though. See the socialists like Ocasio-Cortez wants to control all of our decisions. What we can eat. If we can eat meat. How we can fly! It’s all about socialism and how it can control our lives! The socialists. The socialists just want to fight everything you want the freedom to do.
Candidates.vote– You say it drove your father crazy about you and politics. Where and what was it that got you started on this political journey?
Sal – At Tempe High School where I attended we had this teacher, Mr. Mitchell. He was a city councilman and he made us go to city council for credit and of course I hated the idea of it. And then I went and it was right there I began thinking of ways it could be done better.
His name was Harry Mitchell and he went on to become the mayor to Tempe and then a congressman. But when I was going to college I rode my bike to Congressman John Rhodes office and said I wanted to learn about politics. So they gave me a job taking out the garbage. Then they put me in charge of signs for the campaign and gradually I was given more and more responsibility.
See, when you’re poor you learn to fight for everything! Eventually they had me driving Congressman Rhodes everywhere – his chaffer. And finally his campaign coordinator. He was Minority Leader and it was he and Senator Goldwater who went to President Nixon and told him to resign.
Candidates.vote– So how is it an Italian kid in the desert was able to attend and graduate from Arizona State University’s School of Business with a degree in marketing. And then become known as the one man crusader out to uncover waste in the City of Phoenix?
Sal– With my parents being poor we had to pay our own way. First I attended Mesa Community College and worked security there from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. and then met a businessman from Whirlpool by the name of Tom Bartley.
Told him I wanted to major in political science at ASU. He said, “You’ll never go anywhere with political science.” Next thing I knew was this guy, who I never got to thank, had me enrolled in the College of Business at ASU.
Candidates.vote– You never had a chance to thank him?
Sal – No, but he had me quit the security job and next thing I knew there was a job for me serving cookies and coffee to the business executives who were coming to visit the school. It helped me learn I could do anything in life to get you where you needed or wanted to be. I’ve been a window washer and a meat cutter.
That job though taught me to walk into a room with confidence. I learned how to talk and associate with business people and it’s helped me in all I do and have done since.
Candidates.vote– Is one of the things you learned in all of that the idea of being called by your first name, Sal, and not councilman?
Sal – Even in council meetings I use my name and not my title. I’m not the boss of the people. It’s the people who are my boss. When I finish this term I will have served 18 years and I have never allowed anyone to call me “councilman”.
And you want to know what my parents were most afraid of? They were worried their accent would turn people off.
Candidates.vote– After 18-years on the city council what type of advice to you have for anyone who might be thinking of going into politics right now?
Sal– You work with human nature. Whatever you do, don’t fight against it! The less friction in life there is, the more things you can get done. A lot of people will disagree, but there is a new model out there like Ocasio-Cortez. She believes what she’s saying – she’s the new model.
She’s a rock star by being up front with people and believing what she’s saying. People need to be careful to not discount her. She was a working class person, but she’ll get caught up in the Deep-State back there too.
She’s a bit like Trump. Like him she’s challenging old ideas, even if the ideas aren’t the same… they are scaring everyone to death who has been part of the establishment there. It’s the same as I’ve tried to do here; to take on the challenges like pensions and roads. We all need to remember God gave us the right to make change!