BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — Karen Harrington recalled the time that she was having Sunday dinner at Maureen Troubetaris’ house in Beverly when Troubetaris got a call from an elderly woman who was upset that a snowplow had plowed in her driveway.
As the longtime city councilor from Ward 1, Troubetaris was accustomed to such phone calls. She promptly put down her fork, picked up her shovel and drove to the woman’s house to fix the problem herself.
“As far as what she’s done for this ward and the people of this ward,” said Harrington, a longtime friend and supporter, “she’s just gone over and above.”
A generation of Ryal Side residents has grown up with Troubetaris as their city councilor, but that is about to change. Troubetaris announced Monday night that she will not seek re-election, a decision that will bring to a close the longest tenure ever for a Beverly city councilor.
Troubetaris, who will turn 70 next month, has served on the council for 22 years.
“It’s been coming,” she said of her decision. “It’s been a long time, 22 years. It’s time to give someone else a shot at it.”
Troubetaris was first elected in 1991, two years after her husband, Ed, died of a heart attack while running for the same office. Ed Troubetaris had lost his seven previous elections. Maureen Troubetaris ended up winning all 11 of hers.
“I wasn’t just trying to prove a point,” she said of winning the seat her husband never did. “I was genuinely involved in the neighborhood.”
Troubetaris, a Beverly native, breezed to most of her re-election victories, often running unopposed. She said she never took an election for granted, knocking on 2,500 doors in every campaign.
“You have to get out into the neighborhood and see what people’s needs and concerns are,” she said.
When Troubetaris took office, the city was facing an $8.5 million deficit. Over the next two decades, she said, the city experienced a “renaissance” with improvements to its parks, schools and downtown and the transformation of the old United Shoe factory into the Cummings Center.
Cummings Center is now a thriving office park and the city’s largest taxpayer, but the development, which is in Troubetaris’ ward, was controversial at the time due to concerns over traffic and its impact on existing businesses.
Troubetaris ultimately voted in favor of the project but called it her “toughest vote.”
“I had a ward divided,” she said. “The woman around the corner started a petition against it. I went home one night and said, ‘This isn’t a ward issue, it’s a city issue.’ It’s the best vote I ever took.”
Troubetaris developed a reputation on the council as a straight talker who would state her opinions bluntly.
“She’s all for the average person, the middle class, whatever you want to label that certain group of people,” Harrington said. “She’s their voice. Sometimes she doesn’t make friends on the board, but we’d all say to her, ‘You don’t need them to be your friends. We’re your friends.’”
Troubetaris has been the only woman on the nine-member council for the last two years, a situation she said has not always been easy.
“I’ve endured, but the men have their little group conversations,” she said. “I just say what I want to say. I’m independent in that sense.”
City Council President Paul Guanci credited Troubetaris with helping guide him when he first joined the council 12 years ago.
“Through the years, she’s been a valuable ally and a tremendous friend,” he said. “Whoever runs has big shoes to fill. Her heart is definitely in it. She’s always been in it for the right reasons.”
Troubetaris, who retired two years ago after 20 years as an insurance claims adjuster, will finish out her term through the end of the year.
She said she is looking forward to spending time with her family, including her three grandchildren. She’s also active with the Ryal Side Civic Association and is president of the board for the Beverly Children’s Learning Center.
“The council is losing a very, very extraordinary woman,” Harrington said. “She has truly been the voice of Ryal Side.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.