Tony Amatulli at French Valley Cafe, an Interview

One thing's for certain, when you meet Tony Amatulli, you don't forget him. The 52 year old...

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tony amatulliOne thing's for certain, when you meet Tony Amatulli, you don't forget him.

The 52 year old owner of Amatulli Auto Parts has a big smile with red rosy cheeks, a friendly and gentle demeanor, and a firm handshake. After being mentioned in The Californian last week as a possible choice to take over Fred Twyman's city council seat, I wanted to get to know the man.

I waited for him a few nights ago at French Valley Cafe during karaoke night. I heard someone say, "Hey Tony!". I looked towards the door and there he walked in, a big guy with a big grin on his face. I could tell he was a regular here, everyone greeted him. Just like an episode of "Cheers!" And after having listened to him belt out rendentions of Frank Sinatra's "The Summer Wind", and Dean Martin's "That's Amore", I learned he can sing too.

I asked him how his name got mentioned in the papers as a choice for city council. "I didn't even know I was mentioned in the papers", he said with a chuckle. "It wasn't until the next day when people started telling me about it."

"If you get picked to be on the city council, would you accept?" I asked him. "Absolutely" he replied.

In 2008, when Menifee cityhood came up for ballot, Amatulli ran for city council. He didn't make it, placing 14th in a field of 19 candidates. I asked him why he ran for council.

"I didnt think there was enough diversification when I found out who was running." he explained. "My store used to be next to the Ponderosa, and I was part of the Perris Chamber and the Sun City Chamber. I got more involved with the Chamber and I became part of the Board and got to know all those people well. And a lot of those people were part of the cityhood effort, and then those people ran for city council. I figured there's got to be more people than the same old people. So I threw my hat into the ring."

Amatulli grew up in Riverside, a graduate of Notre Dame High School, and spent three years studying at Cal Poly Pomona. He bought his auto parts store in 1983, and then relocated to Menifee in 2000, having bought five acres with his brother. He now lives on an acre of that land.

"I always felt that Menifee didn't have an identity", he went on to say. "Temecula has its wineries, but what does Menifee have? Let's attach something to it, whether it be golf courses, or arts. I remember listening to Bill Rawlings (Menifee City Manager) say that Menifee residents spend $10 to $11 million a year in Temecula. I was astounded! I think we need more activities in Menifee. It's amazing the discrepancy on the money residents spend outside Menifee."

"We can't have 60 to 80 thousand people driving to work in San Diego or Orange County", he continued. "I've always felt that for people to enjoy their homes, they have to see them, and how can you if you're away from home 11-12 hours of the day? We need a job base here, we need a tax base."

As for improving the roads and bridges in Menifee, Amatulli seems to think it should be the city's top priority. "That's something I ran on in 2008. We need more roads and better roads. It doesn't matter how many lanes we widen the freeway, we have to find other ways to get to Perris or Murrieta, without getting on the freeway."

"Are you for slow growth?" I asked Tony. "No. But I am for growth that benefits everyone, particularly for the residents