By: Richard Howe – March, 2010
Senator Steve Panagiotakos Says Goodbye Since announcing last month that he would not seek re-election to the State Senate, Steve Panagiotakos has repeatedly said that he is proudest not when he’s called Senator or Chairman, he’s proudest when he’s called “Panagiotakos of Lowell.” That sentiment was clearly on display during Steve’s valedictory remarks at the Owl Diner.
The Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee devoted most of his speech to recounting his first ever campaign back in 1989 when he was elected to the Lowell School Committee. Back then, Steve was going to law school at night, substitute teaching during the day, and hanging around Gerry Flynn’s bar when he had some free time. One day when Steve began complaining about the fireworks at the previous evening’s Lowell School Committee meeting, Flynn challenged him to run for a seat on that body and thus began an historic political career.
Steve agreed to run but had no political experience, so Flynn got him in touch with Anne Sepe and Mark Byrne who did a masterful job of organizing that first campaign. They were soon joined by Dave Conway, Fred Doyle, Tom McKay and Greg Pappas. Steve said his brother-in-law John Arguyon became a “one man gang” by making signs, compiling phone lists, and sifting through computer databases. Steve’s sister Sophia dropped flyers everyday and his sister Tina and his brother Chris, still a student at Lowell High, also helped out. Steve’s mom and dad were hugely supportive and a campaign volunteer named Christine Hondras devoted so much time to the campaign that she ended up becoming Mrs. Panagiotakos.
Steve said that in his campaign for School Committee, the experts said he had “no shot”; when he ran for State Representative he was “a long shot”; and when he ran for State Senator, he “had a shot.” He was always the underdog but he said the City of Lowell loves an underdog and he was always successful.
He then reviewed all the things that have been accomplished during his tenure but attributed all the credit to the teamwork of Lowell’s legislative delegation of himself and State Representatives Tom Golden, Kevin Murphy and Dave Nangle. But Steve said that while there were plenty of big projects, the accomplishments for which he will always be proudest were the times he helped a constituent get into housing or a school or a nursing home or to find a job or get health insurance. He always told his staff that if a citizen takes the time to call his State Senator’s office, it’s important to that citizen and if it’s important to them, “it damn well better be important to us.”
Steve ended by thanking his first aides, Nick Petrakos, and his Chief of Staff, D J Corcoran and then thanking all the special people that he’s had the privilege to represent through the years. He said Lowell is a “hardscrabble community with a lot of character and a lot of characters.” He ended by saying “If Boston is the Athens of America, then Lowell is the Sparta of America and there’s on old Spartan saying to ‘come back with your shield or on it.’ Today, I’m coming home with my shield.”
A history of public service
Here’s a look back at some of the important elections in the political career of Steve Panagiotakos:
1989 – Panagiotakos and Ray Riddick were both elected to the Lowell School Committee in their first campaigns. They joined George Kouloheras, Mary Anna Sullivan, Regina Faticanti and Kathleen Janas on the committee. Kay Stoklosa and Sean Sullivan failed to win re-election. Dick Howe Sr. joined the committee when he was elected Mayor.
1991 – Panagiotakos was re-elected to the school committee, finishing second to George Kouloheras. Ray Riddick, Kay Stoklosa (who rejoined the committee when Kathy Janas resigned before her term ended) and Regina Faticanti were all reelected. Former school superintendent Henry Mroz was elected, replacing Mary Anna Sullivan who didn’t run for re-election. Tarsy Poulios served as mayor.
1992 – Panagiotakos ran against incumbent state representative Susan Rourke in the Democratic Primary, 3657 to 2421. In the general election, Panagiotakos defeated Republican Tim Golden, 9331 to 2767. Steve continued to serve on the school committee for the remaining year of that term.
1993 – With Panagiotakos leaving the school committee, three new members were elected: Michael Gallagher, Tim Golden and James Kennedy. They joined incumbents George Kouloheras, Kay Stoklosa and Regina Faticanti. Incumbents Henry Mroz and Ken Powers (who had replaced Ray Riddick when he moved to California for employment) both lost. Dick Howe Sr. again served as Mayor.
1994 – Panagiotakos was unopposed in both the primary and general election.
1996 – When Dan Leahy keeps his pledge to serve only two terms in the State Senate and does not seek re-election, the race to succeed him turns into a heavyweight bout between Panagiotakos and City Councilor Matt Donahue. Panagiotakos prevailed, 8,836 to 4,043 in the district including a 7,453 to 2,963 count in Lowell. Panagiotakos defeated Republican Ken Dwyer of Westford, 35,909 to 12,049. While Panagiotakos always took every election very seriously, 1996 was his last close contest.
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