Michael Arcuri happy where his diverse life has led

ABOVE: Michael and Sabrina Arcuri with their family: sons Carmen Joseph and Nicholas Francis; daughters Dominque Terese and Sophia Rose.

Michael Arcuri has accomplished a lot in his years on the planet. He has been a college football player, a lawyer, district attorney, Congressman, family man and much more. Most of all, he loves the area and the people in it.

You’re Utica born and raised, have traveled the country and the world, served in the U.S. Congress — and yet, after all that, you returned home.

Utica is my home. It’s where I grew up, where my family and friends live. I could not imagine going to church on Saturday and not seeing old friends.

You played football at the University at Albany. What lessons did you learn from that sport that you use in your life?

Football taught me discipline and the necessity for hard work in order to succeed. But most importantly as a center, I learned that without teamwork you can never achieve the goals you set.

You majored in history and minored in economics. Somehow, you ended up being a lawyer. How was that decision made?

My grandfather Dominic always pushed me to be a lawyer and my mother knew I liked politics, so she thought being a lawyer might be the safer and smarter career path. When I lost my Congressional seat and was able afterward to immediately get a job practicing law, I stopped to see her, gave her a hug and thanked her for her foresight and wisdom.

You were Oneida County district attorney for 12 years. What do you remember most about serving in that position?

I tried 10 murder/attempted murder cases and oversaw hundreds more, which helped to put some bad people in jail. But we also worked hard to not deal with the effects but to address the cause. To that end, we created the first-ever county-wide Drug Task Force, we helped usher in Drug Courts in Utica and Rome, we set up victim impact panels, and I am most proud of having set up the first Child Advocacy Center in New York state.

Why did you decide to run for Congress?

There were a number of reasons … but I think most salient was my opposition to the war in Iraq and my desire to get the troops home.

What was that experience like?

My experience in Congress was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was the hardest most time-consuming unappreciated job I ever loved. I made many good friends that I still keep in regular and close contact with. I would never trade my time there, but on the other hand I am the happiest I have ever been with my current life.

You served for two terms. How did losing an election affect you?

While it is always difficult to lose, I looked at it as having been incredibly lucky to serve the people of Central New York for four years. In politics sometimes you ride the wave and sometimes you get knocked down by it. That’s just the way it is.

Your thoughts on politics in 2024.

It is hard to imagine how much things have changed just in the short time that I have been out of office, but the partisan divide has grown to the point where it seems less about accomplishing what is best for our country and more about obtaining and maintaining personal power.

You’re a member of a loyal Mount Carmel family. Your dad, Carmen, was active in the parish until his death. Your mom, Betty, also was very active in the church. Share your thoughts on how Mount Carmel and your family have been instrumental in your life.

Having attended school and received all of my sacraments at Mount Carmel it only stands to reason that the church has always been the center of our lives. From the highlight of the summer, “The Feast,” to Christmas Eve Mass, I could not imagine life without Mount Carmel. It’s not the bricks and mortar that make Mount Carmel what it is, although it is truly one of the most beautiful churches in Utica. It is not the music and liturgies, although they are very special. To me Mount Carmel is about East Utica and the people and history that Mount Carmel is such a large part of. While I no longer live in East Utica, it will be a part of me, and I will always be a part of Mount Carmel.

You volunteer as a lector, offer your legal services and open clams at the festival. Why is opening clams your favorite?

Opening clams is my favorite volunteer work I do at the church. I think because my daughter Dominique (who I taught to shuck clams) joins me and we open with the Leone Family and a number of other families from the parish. The work can be tough, but we laugh, reminisce and I get to see people I haven’t seen in years. For me it is like reconnecting with my past.

You also volunteer and are a member of many area organizations? Why do you do that and why is it important to you?

I often think of the old saying my father use to say to me, “To those who much is given much is expected.” I have been incredibly lucky in my life! God has blessed myself and my family so many times and in so many ways, whatever little I can do to make my community a better place is the very least I can do.

How has your faith shaped your life when things were going good and when rough times came along?

Like so many others, faith and family have always been what have helped to keep me grounded and focused on what is important. Faith to me is the road map I rely on when I’ve lost my way. Faith and family are the crutch I lean on when I am hurting or grieving, and family is who I celebrate with when all is good.

What advice would you give others that you’ve shared with your children?

I try to impart on them that life is a bumpy ride and on the trip of life there are two things you can always count on. First, it will not be easy; and second, when God closes a door, he always opens a window and sometimes that window is much better than the first door, but it is up to you to find that window and have the courage to climb through.

Michael Arcuri

  • Family: Wife Sabrina; children Carmen, Dominique, Nicholas, Joseph and Sophia.
  • Occupation: Partner at Ward Arcuri Foley & Dwyer Law Firm; former U.S. Congressman and Oneida County district attorney.
  • Things you like to do in your spare time: Read, travel, garden, family vacations, evening and Sunday dinners.
  • Favorite vacation spots: Italy; Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
  • Favorite movie: “Moonstruck.”
  • Favorite TV show: “Ancient Aliens.”
  • Favorite musical artists: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dean Martin, Bruce Springsteen.
  • Favorite quote: “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” (Gen. George S. Patton)