By Paul Leighton
BEVERLY — State representative candidates Brett Schetzsle and Jerry Parisella are not only trying to convince voters they'll be the best man for the job. Now they're sparring over just how much time they will devote to it.
In a campaign mailing last week, Republican Schetzsle said voters would be choosing a "part-time" legislator if they vote for Democrat Parisella because Parisella plans to continue working as an attorney for a Beverly law firm.
The campaign literature says Parisella would treat the job of state representative as a "$62,000 part-time gig."
"I don't understand how you can tell voters and taxpayers that you're going to take a full-time salary from them but only work part time," Schetzsle said in an interview.
Parisella acknowledged that he would continue to work at the Alexander & Femino law firm if he is elected on Nov. 2. But he said he would "scale back" his law practice and make the state representative job "my No. 1 priority."
He said he will give up his job as a part-time city solicitor for the city of Salem. He will remain in the Army Reserves, where he is an officer and military lawyer. The Reserves requires a commitment of one weekend per month and two weeks of annual training, he said.
"I will be available to the residents of Beverly whenever they need to talk to me and will also ensure I am at the Statehouse as often as necessary to effectively represent Beverly," Parisella said in an e-mail.
Parisella called Schetzsle "hypocritical" for criticizing him while praising U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's work in the state Legislature while Brown had his own law practice.
"Did my opponent ever criticize Scott Brown?," Parisella said. "Of course not. This is just typical negative campaigning that has never been appreciated by the residents of Beverly."
Schetzsle said Brown's job history is irrelevant to the people of Beverly, who he said deserve a full-time representative on Beacon Hill.
Schetzsle resigned from his job as a marketing manager at Gillette in August due to a company policy that prohibits employees from running for public office. As a full-time state representative, he said, he would attend all committee hearings, as well as formal and informal legislative hearings.
"I'd like to see (Parisella) look taxpayers in the face and say, 'I'm only going to do this part time,' particularly in this economic environment," Schetzsle said.
Massachusetts is one of 10 states that have what could be called a full-time legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. About 43 percent of Massachusetts legislators hold other jobs, according to the NCSL. Among those who do, attorney is the No. 1 profession.
North Shore legislators have taken different approaches to holding other jobs while serving in the House of Representatives.
State Rep. John Keenan, a Salem Democrat, said he practices law on a "very minimal scale." He said working a second job keeps him "grounded" in the community and keeps his skills honed for the day when he is no longer a state representative and will return to the private sector.
"Many of my days start at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning and go to late at night," he said. "I certainly don't have a problem with that."
Democratic state Rep. Lori Ehrlich of Marblehead, meanwhile, gave up her work as a certified public accountant last year to devote full time to her state representative job.
"I think it's an individual choice based on the demands of that second occupation," she said. "Bobby Fennell (a state representative from Lynn) runs a diner. It's a way he can keep in touch with his constituents. Certain jobs are OK."
But Brad Hill, a Republican state representative from Ipswich, said a full-time commitment is the only way to keep up with the demands of the job. Hill said he campaigned on a platform of being a full-time state rep when he first ran for office in 1998.
"What people don't talk about is the meetings that take place in the morning, the meetings at night, the constituent service we do day in and day out, which is like 80 percent of our job," Hill said. "I do believe that this job entails a lot more than it used to in the 1950s and '60s."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.