PATERSON — Six months before he runs for reelection, Mayor Andre Sayegh has announced the appointment of a new chief of staff, a law school student who had worked in the same role for Assemblyman Gary Schaer since 2018.
The appointee, Christian Callegari, also has been president of the Passaic County Young Democrats and chairman of the New Jersey Young Democrats Latino Caucus.
Sayegh’s previous chief of staff, Della McCall-Fischer, has been moved to a newly created city job, director of community engagement. In his announcement issued on Sunday evening, Sayegh did not provide an explanation for the change.
The mayor praised Callegari, saying he has “a wealth of knowledge related to both policy and government operations.”
Callegari becomes Sayegh’s third chief of staff in less than four years. The first person he appointed to the position, Kathleen Long, later became the city business administrator.
When he first took office, Sayegh boasted that he had put together a “Dream Team” of top-level appointees. But nine people who held key positions in the Sayegh administration have left their city jobs since then — a group that includes two law directors, two personnel directors, a police chief, a business administrator, a health and human services director, a community development director and a public information officer.
The Sayegh administration has undergone more than twice as many changes as those of either of Paterson’s two previous elected mayors, Joey Torres and Jeffery Jones.
“He changes his staff more than he changes his underwear,” said Councilman Luis Velez, who political insiders say likely will run against Sayegh in next May’s mayoral contest.
Sayegh cited the pandemic when asked about Velez's criticism.
"During this once-in-a-century crisis, we are always looking to enhance our team to better serve our residents," the mayor said. About half of the Sayegh administration's high-level staff changes happened before the pandemic.
Velez said Sayegh’s appointment of Callegari was designed to build support in the Latino community for the upcoming election. Multiple City Council members noted that Callegari does not live in Paterson.
“The mayor continues to devalue Paterson people, hiring more non-residents, paying them more, while the services to residents are less,” said Councilman Michael Jackson, who has said he plans to run against Sayegh.
Meanwhile, Councilman Al Abdelaziz, a Sayegh ally, praised the moves involving Callegari and McCall-Fischer.
“Christian has tremendous experience from his time working in Trenton,” Abdelaziz said. “There's no one else that understands the needs of the community than Della. I look forward to work with the mayor and this team to tackle quality-of-life issues and move our city forward.”
As part of his press release, Sayegh also said he had promoted Dacil Tilos to the position of public information officer. Tilos had been working as the mayor’s senior communications relations specialist.
Sayegh’s announcement did not reveal what salaries Callegari, McCall-Fischer and Tilos would get in their new positions.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Mayor makes more changes in Paterson City Hall staff