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January 6, 2014

Peabody's Bill Power to step down

PEABODY — He began in the graveyard, but Bill Power is topping off his service to Peabody at the roof of this community’s crown jewel, City Hall.

The president of the Historical Society, a member of both the Historical Commission and the Community Preservation Committee, Power is resigning as work ends on a historically accurate restoration of the 1883 City Hall slate roof.

“We had to fight hard to get that done,” he said. “We were successful, and we’re proud of it. ... That City Hall roof epitomizes everything I and others have worked for all these years.”

Power is surrendering his official Peabody ties because he has moved to Topsfield. He said, however, that he leaves with reluctance and cites family concerns as his reason for leaving. Raised in Lynn, Power has lived mostly in Peabody since the 1970s. His involvement with the city’s history began in the mid-1990s, when he joined an effort to restore the cemetery plots that dot the community, many from the Colonial era.

In the years following, working as a volunteer, Power has had a remarkable impact. While he’s quick to mention his colleagues — “You can’t do it alone,” he said — he has pushed hard for historic preservation.

Sometimes, that’s meant irritating others, especially in the fight to save old buildings. It’s necessary because, “Money works 24 hours a day. Preservation? Maybe you get a half-hour,” he said.

Efforts by Power and others have saved a number of structures, such as the 162-year-old Sutton-Pierson House, which escaped the wrecking ball and was moved to Aborn Street in 2009.

Power was one of those urging passage of the Community Preservation Act, which adds a 1 percent surcharge to property taxes to be used for historic preservation, open space and affordable housing.

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