This week, PoliticsNY sat down with developer Carl Paladino for an exclusive interview and we got a real surprise: the Buffalo native is ready to move to Washington and hold an office – even serving in President Donald Trump’s West Wing, if he's asked.
During the bruising presidential election, Paladino chaired the President-elect’s Republican primary campaign in New York State. After a landslide primary win for Donald Trump in New York – a vital win that turned the GOP race toward Trump - he chaired the general election campaign in New York State.
Since Trump’s unexpected and profound win on November 8th, there has been media speculation about Carl Paladino serving in the new administration. When asked, the Trump loyalist showed a surprising amount of interest in the opportunity.
"I’ve told Mr. Trump and his son-in-law Jared [Kushner] that if they would consider me for a position, a certain type of position, I could find it interesting to do. I’m not looking for a job, you know," Paladino said.
"If I could be where the action is and help create a better government, looking at productivity and proficiency, here and there or wherever, that would be the type of office I’d want to hold."
That’s news, because Paladino’s Buffalo roots run deep and it’s widely believed he wouldn’t want to leave. He’s the founder and chairman of Ellicott Development Co., a real estate development company he started in 1973, headquartered in downtown Buffalo in the historic Ellicott Square Building. Today, his company has been valued at $500 million dollars.
Paladino admitted that working in Washington would be “somewhat traumatic to his business.” But that wouldn’t stop him from taking a position in the Trump administration as long as he can return home often to his family.
"If I’m staying in the states and coming home on the weekends, that’s pretty much as far as I’d go," he said. "And it would have to be Washington because it’s an hour flight and easy to get to. But the only reason I’d leave is if I felt that the position would be contributing, doing something effective, not just occupying space."
"If I’m doing something creative, and new, where the action is, I mean you put me in the West-Wing and I’ll have a ball," he said with a laugh.
He might laugh, but it’s no joke: Paladino is as close as any state campaign leader in the Trump orbit. He was instrumental in the effort to recruit the billionaire to run for New York governor in 2014. Trump demurred, but a close friendship grew. Even in this post election period they talk frequently by phone.
So far, the Trump administration has named nine cabinet appointments. He still has just over 4,000 appointments to staff up – and he’s shown remarkable loyalty to close friends like Carl.
Education is at the top of Paladino's interest. A member of the Buffalo School Board since 2013, he shared a concern about the recent appointment of Michigan Republican Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education.
"I’m not necessarily sure that she’s everything Trump expected on Common Core," he said. "Common Core is government intruding on the rights of the locals to run their education systems. Trump, for the most part, has spoken about getting the Federal government out of education, except for funding it, so I don’t know where that’s going."
So keep an eye on Carl Paladino in the days ahead: he might be packing his bags for Washington soon. President Elect Trump will finish up his cabinet appointments in a matter of days and it will be time to fill key leadership positions that execute on his agenda. Historically, that’s when new presidents turn to their most loyal friends - especially those who won big for him when it mattered most.
Knowing this, I brought my marked-up copy of the PLUM Book, the official list of all 4,000-plus presidential appointments being filled; I wanted Carl to point out the kind of office he’d like to hold. I was surprised: the developer hadn’t seen a copy of the PLUM Book before. (It really is quite fascinating, with salary, location and other vital information for some interesting-sounding jobs.)
Carl leafed through the pages with interest. Clearly, he hadn't yet looked at precisely what kind of appointments are being filled. I couldn’t refuse when he asked me if he could keep my book. Why not? It would be kind of cool to know in a small way I helped Carl Paladino find his mission in Washington.