Fran Vella-Marrone, a longtime Dyker Heights civic leader and member of the Kings County Conservative Party, made history on Sept. 19 when she became the first woman ever elected to serve as chairperson of the party.
Vella-Marrone was elected by the County Committee of the Kings County Conservative Party at a committee meeting on Wednesday. She is also treasurer of the New York State Conservative Party, chaired by Mike Long. While the state and borough parties are closely aligned, they each have their own leadership structures.
“I’m the first woman to head the Brooklyn party. But we have had many women in top positions at the state party over the years,” she told this newspaper on Thursday.
Vella-Marrone succeeds Jerry Kassar, who chaired the Kings County Conservative Party for 30 years. Kassar said he will remain active at the state level. He is currently vice chairperson of the state party. “I’ll still be around,” he told this newspaper.
Kassar said he has fond memories of his three decades at the helm. “I very much enjoyed the many years I served as chairman, the people I met and the candidates we endorsed, some who went onto to be outstanding elected officials,” he said.
Vella-Marrone paid tribute to her predecessor. “I want to thank former Chairman Jerry Kassar for his years of service and dedication to the Kings County Conservative Party, and I look forward to his continued guidance and support,” she said.
The election of Vella-Marrone solidifies Southwest Brooklyn’s hold on the leadership positions at both the borough and statewide levels of the Conservative Party. Vella-Marrone and Kassar live in Dyker Heights. Long resides in Bay Ridge. The state party’s headquarters is also located in Bay Ridge.
In addition to Vella-Marrone, the county committee elected Vice Chairperson David Ryan, Executive Secretary Nanci Roden and Treasurer Ross Brady at the Sept. 19 meeting.
Vella-Marrone, who serves as a top aide to Republican-Conservative U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, is a well-known community leader in Dyker Heights. For several years, she has served as president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association.
She joined the Conservative Party as a teenager, and quickly earned a reputation as a tenacious campaigner and effective party spokesperson.
Long has often told the story of his first meeting with her. She came to the party’s headquarters offering to help during election season. Long handed her hundreds of fliers promoting Paul Atanasio, a local candidate. Vella-Marrone took the fliers and headed out to the streets to hand them out to pedestrians. A heavy rainstorm came and Long forgot that Vella-Marrone was out there. She later came back to the headquarters soaking wet and without complaint, requested more fliers to hand out.
Vella-Marrone said her top priority as Conservative Party chairperson is to work to get the party’s preferred candidates elected in November, she said.
The party has endorsed Marc Molinaro for governor, Steve Saperstein for State Assembly in the 46th Assembly District, and is backing Donovan, state Sen. Martin Golden and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis for re-election.
“We are looking forward to effective and successful campaigns,” she said.
While the Conservative Party often endorses Republicans, there are differences between the two parties, Vella-Marrone said. “We are not an arm of the Republican Party,” she told this newspaper. ‘We are a party onto ourselves. We have our own ballot line, Line C, and we stand on our own.”
The Conservatives take a hard line on lowering taxes and reducing government spending and are opposed to abortion.
“But we have sometimes endorsed Democrats. We tend to look at the qualities of the person running,” Vella-Marrone said.
After November, she said plans to focus on “getting out there and discussing the issues that are important to the improving the quality of life in the community.”
She is also eager to recruit new members to the Kings County Conservative Party.