He has been yelled at, cursed, booed, threatened, even spat upon. He has lost his temper -- but doesn't regret it -- asked police to escort him into a public hearing at least once and stormed out of a public hearing more than once.
Say his name to people who have stood before a microphone in any suburb in the past 20 years to address their elected leaders about a building project, and chances are they will say his name like Jerry Seinfeld said, "Newman!"
Attorney Jeffery Palumbo seems to be in the audience every time a community turns out in large numbers to object to something. Whether it's a Benderson big box or a small zoning change, Palumbo is there, usually on the side of the developer. He's like the suburban development version of Forrest Gump.
Imagine being in a room with 200 people and 199 of them disagree with you, some of them violently. Palumbo doesn't have to imagine it; he lives it.
And he loves it.
"It used to be when I knew I was going to have a controversial hearing, I really would get worked up about it. I'd get a stomachache in advance. I'd get nervous," he said. "But the more you do it, the more you lose that, and it becomes more of a challenge. Now I'm at the point where I kind of need that to get me revved up. The bigger the project, the more people tell me [they're against it], the better I am at making a presentation."
Sitting in his Clarence office in a typical suburban setting -- small office park, ample parking lot, Tim Hortons next door -- Palumbo is the human form of Casual Friday -- genial, smiling, joking.
But to at least hundreds and probably thousands of area residents, none of that matters. To them, Palumbo is the face of the enemy, the guy trying to force a development on them that they don't want.
This year alone, Palumbo has represented the interests of different developers who want to build a Wal-Mart on Millersport Highway in Amherst and a Walgreens on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda. The former is in the hands of Amherst officials who are trying a variety of means to keep it out, while the latter was approved in August after a compromise was worked out.
As the person who acts as the spokesman and advocate for projects that draw lots of protest and media attention, Palumbo is rarely anonymous when he shows up at a town meeting.
"They start booing me now before I get to the podium," he said, not kidding one bit.
Palumbo is not always on the side of the perceived bad guy. In 2004, he represented the interests of businessman George Atallah, who wanted to build a car wash next to his gas station on Millersport. On the other side were a pair of monoliths: Uniland Development and insurance giant GEICO, objecting because -- of course -- it didn't fit with the character of the neighborhood.
The Amherst Town Board sided with Palumbo. The little guy won.
"It absolutely felt different," he said. "As a matter of fact, [Council Member] Dan Ward, who's typically my opponent on every project, said, 'How does it feel to be on the other side of the big developer?' And it did feel kind of good because the majority of the crowd -- if not 100 percent of the crowd -- was on my side. I actually received some applause, which doesn't happen very often."
But did it feel so good that he would consider leaving "the dark side" of development interests? Not a chance.
"I believe in what we're doing," he said of his work with development. "The way I look at it, there's so little going on in Western New York that we should be on our hands and knees thanking the Bendersons of the world for not packing up and leaving completely."e-mail: email@example.com