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‘VaughanTASTIC’: Meet Adriano Volpentesta, local celebrity and newly minted Vaughan councillor
Nov. 16, 2022

For years, Adriano Volpentesta has been a steadfast advocate for “the people of Vaughan” with an Instagram page that has made him a local celebrity.

His signature phrases -- “VaughanTASTIC” (the “best compliment”) and “777% BOV (Best of Vaughan) APPROVED” (a way to show this person or organization is acting in the “best interest of the community”) -- frequently slip into the lexicon of folks in the area.

When he got his first job as a delivery driver at age 18, he declared he was saving his pay for something specific -- not a new car or clothes, but campaign materials. Brochures and lawn signs, to be exact.

His boss and now a lifelong friend asked why, with Volpentesta replying, “I’m going to run for regional councillor next year.” It wasn’t the first time he thought about securing the post, though, recalling memories of his childhood when he saw councillors in his school for graduations or at grand openings for businesses in the city. “It’s always been a dream for me to be here for the community.”

Now 35 years old, that dream of serving the community he knows and loves is a reality, after winning the post of Ward 2 councillor in the recent municipal election. Volpentesta ran unsuccessfully in 2014 and 2018 but picked up more votes each time. On Oct. 24, he received around 7,200 votes, beating the longtime incumbent for Ward 2, Tony Carella.

In his view, his win is a testament to the power of determination, encouraging young people to vote, having the support of a strong group of around 80 volunteers, listening to the concerns of his constituents and campaigning around the clock -- plus, being there for his community outside of election season.

“It was because of 22 years of community leadership. People were ready for change, a new direction.”

It’s reflected outside of Ward 2, too.

Vaughan’s council has the most new faces set to serve in years, with former Ontario Liberal leader Steven Del Duca elected as mayor, Mario G. Racco as a local and regional councillor, Chris Ainsworth taking the post for Ward 4 and Gila Martow taking Ward 5. At the same time, the city has re-elected two of the longest-running local and regional councillors around, Gino Rosati and Mario Ferri.

Joining council will be a learning curve for Volpentesta, but he says he’s up to the challenge, adding he knows he and his new colleagues are ready to help Vaughan be the best it can be. And if you ask Mike ‘Fresh’ Appugliese, the owner of Freshouse Food and Juice Bar in Vaughan, Volpentesta has already been doing the work of a councillor in his daily life for years.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was helping people secure hand sanitizer and masks, Appugliese said.

Appugliese also recalls that the day after Volpentesta lost the 2018 election, he was back supporting the community even without the title of councillor -- taking on anything from dealing with a pothole that needed to be filled, a cat stuck in the tree or a new small business, like Freshouse, needing help getting off the ground.

“It’s all because of his method with his Instagram presence,” Appugliese said, noting Volpentesta uses his social media accounts to highlight the work of community members and issues that need to be addressed at city hall. “The guy just does the job.”

“I’m always here to fight for the community. I’m grassroots with boots on the ground, and I’m bringing their voices to council,” Volpentesta said. “A lot of people think politicians don’t care about people or understand their frustrations. I’m different,” he said, promising people a 24-hour response time when he’s in office, regardless of how they contact him -- “by text message, phone call, email, or if I see you at the local Longo’s.”

And while his win hasn’t hit him yet, he has big plans for his ward after he’s officially inaugurated on Nov. 15.

Volpentesta ran on a platform to create more opportunities for youth in Vaughan, including an annual job fair and a new library at Father E. Bulfon Community Centre, improving traffic flow out of subdivisions, expanding the notification radius for new development proposals, more dog parks and the first street sign in Vaughan to let drivers know there are children with autism in the area, similar to those for children who are deaf.

“Living in Vaughan has been the blessing of my life. We continue to grow but have never lost that small-town feel,” Volpentesta said. “I’m indebted to the community and residents of Ward 2 for giving me this chance to fulfil my lifelong goal and dream. I’m so grateful.”