When Speliotis was 10, his father built a house on Appleton Street in Danversport. Speliotis likes to joke that if his father had not moved to town, he would not have had a political career. He describes himself as a shy kid who never ran for student government at Danvers High, from which he graduated in 1971. However, when the voting age was lowered to 18, he and a friend got elected to Town Meeting.
Two things shaped his desire to become a state representative.
Right after Speliotis’ family moved to Danvers, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
“We were dismissed from school and that weekend everything came to a stop,” said Speliotis, who is now 59. He remembers being glued to the television set all weekend.
“All I could think of was, wow, if such a big deal could be made out of one person, imagine all the things that person can do,” Speliotis said. “And, that was what really motivated me.”
Another motivator was his seventh-grade U.S. history teacher named Ed Quinn, who took a liking to Speliotis. The teacher even put him on stage to represent the seventh grade in a debate on the Middle East, Speliotis recalls.
In the summers during college, Speliotis landed a job with the National Park Service, first working at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, then at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York after he graduated. Speliotis worked as a school coordinator and wrote lesson plans for local school groups.
In 1977, Speliotis left New York for the North Shore to run for office in 1978.
After redistricting, his home wound up in a district in which 80 percent of the vote came from Peabody and three precincts were in Danvers. He was outspent, but hustled and managed to beat Charlie O’Donnell in the Democratic primary. He later beat Republican and former longtime Peabody City Councilor Frank Wiggin in the general election.