By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge — Eileen Long Chelales graduated from Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School 24 years ago and is currently the school's director of development.
"Bishop Ford High School was very good to me as a student. And it has remained an extended family to me," she said.
When her brother Matthew Long, a firefighter, was hit by a bus and critically injured in 2005, Bishop Ford High School "was one of the first places to hold a blood drive," Long Chelales said.
Her job as director of development is challenging, she said.
"My main goal is to raise money for the school. In this economy, that's a difficult job. But another goal I have is to get across the message of what a wonderful school Bishop Ford is. It's a faith-filled and loving environment. I believe in the school and I believe in the students," she said.
When she took the job two years ago, "it was like coming home again," Long Chelales said.
In between her graduation from Bishop Ford in 1988 and her current role at her alma mater, however, her professional life led her down many different roads. During the past two decades, Long Chelales has been a campaign manager in a mayoral race, has served as a top aide to a governor, and has been part of the administration of George W. Bush, among other jobs.
Chelales is her married name. Many people still refer to her by her maiden name. Her mom is also named Eileen Long. Sometimes, Long Chelales will identify herself on the phone as "young Eileen Long." Young Eileen Long is a busy mother with two children.
In 1993, she ran Conservative Party candidate George Marlin's campaign for mayor.
"I was 22 years old. I guess you could say I cut my teeth on that race," she said.
Marlin, who later went on to become chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was locked in a three-way race with incumbent Democrat David Dinkins and Republican challenger Rudy Giuliani.
"George Marlin was seen as a spoiler in that race. People kept asking why we didn't support Giuliani. We did not get a significant amount of press. In the end, we got less than 16,000 votes. It was discouraging and disheartening, but I knew we had done the right thing. He was a candidate I believed in," she said.
Giuliani won the election and served two terms as mayor.
The campaign had some funny moments. During a television interview with legendary newsman Gabe Pressman on NBC, Marlin held up a rubber chicken to make a point.
"It was the only time we got widespread publicity and it was because of a chicken!" she said.
Long Chelales admitted that she had purchased the chicken and given it to Marlin.
"I bought it at the Party Store on Fifth Avenue," she said.
Politics runs in the Long family. Her dad, Mike Long, is chairman of the New York State Conservative Party, and her mom, Eileen Long, worked as an aide to both Susan Molinari and Vito Fossella when they served in Congress. Mike Long served as a city councilman-at-large, representing Brooklyn, in the 1980s. The Longs have nine children, seven of them boys. Eileen and her sister Maureen are the only girls.
While Long Chelales said, "I always enjoyed following my dad around," she points to her father's business, not just his political post, as a good training ground for politics. For many years, Mike Long was the owner of Long's Discount Wines and Liquors at 7917 Fifth Ave.
"When the liquor store first opened, we went all around Bay Ridge putting fliers in everyone's mailboxes. Everyone pitched in," she recalled.
Taking part in a political campaign means being part of a team in which everyone pitches in, she said.
Eileen Long was born in Cypress Hills in Brooklyn and attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School. In the early 1980s, when Eileen was in the seventh grade, the Longs moved from Cypress Hills to Bay Ridge. The Longs had owned an ice cream parlor in Cypress Hills. Mike Long decided to apply his business skills to opening a liquor store.
Mike and Eileen Long also became involved in the community.
"They always kept an eye out for what was going on in the community and they wanted us to become active too," their daughter said. "They thought Bay Ridge was a great place to live."
Young Eileen enrolled at Our Lady of Angels School.
"I remember my first day of school, it was in October. It was Picture Day, so nobody was wearing their school uniform, except me. I was wearing my uniform from my old school. My friends have never let me forget that!" she said.
Many of the friends she made at Our Lady of Angels School are still her friends today.
"The girls welcomed me as a new student. They were so accepting of a newcomer. They had such warmth. I have never forgotten their kindness to me," she said.
After her graduation from Our Lady of Angels, Long attended Bishop Ford. She went on to attend Saint Francis College, where she majored in history. She worked in the college's admissions office after graduation, and then became involved in politics. She joined Marlin's mayoral campaign early on, before he had even earned the Conservative Party endorsement.
Following the Marlin campaign, she worked for a nonprofit organization run by Wall Street executives that sought to develop economic policy for New York State.
In 1994, she went on a job interview for a role in the press office of George Pataki's gubernatorial campaign. She wound up working for Pataki for eight years, first in the press office, then in the legislative office, and eventually as deputy press secretary.
"On Election Night in 1994, I was asked to work in the administration. I said, 'Move to Albany? Are you kidding?' It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made," she said.
When Pataki was running for re-election in 1998, Long was asked to serve as the campaign manager for Mary Donohue, Pataki's lieutenant governor. Long said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
"We went to dairy farms. We went to the 'I Love Lucy' museum in Jamestown. For a Brooklyn girl, it was great. I got to see so many parts of this state," she said.
She was working in the Pataki administration when such momentous events as the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. During both of those events, Long Chelales's goal was to help the families of the victims in ways that were practical.
"With Flight 800, we established a system in which the families received information before the news media. I felt it was important to do that out of respect for the families. Why should they learn about things from watching television?" she said.
She also helped organize a memorial service to the Flight 800 victims.
Long Chelales felt the effects of Sept. 11 personally.
"I have brothers who are firemen. They lost friends in the World Trade Center," she said.
Long Chelales said she admired Pataki's ability to remain calm during the attack and in the days and months that followed.
"He and Giuliani were the epitome of leadership. They pulled people together. The governor was very comforting to the families of the victims and to his staff also," she said.
Pataki served for three terms. When he left politics in 2006, Long, who by this time had married and was now Eileen Long Chelales, went to work in the administration of George W. Bush. She served as regional director for the General Services Administration (GSA), where her managerial skills were put to good use. The GSA is the agency in charge of all buildings owned or leased by the federal government.
"The key to being a good manager is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and then ask them questions about how they think things should work. You have to have people around you who know more about the subject than you do. If you make people feel like they're a part of a team, they'll give you everything they've got," she said.