SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 4, 2013

New Peabody state rep prepares to take office

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — If you thought a 24-year-old licensed practical nurse running for higher office sounded unlikely, get ready to have your temperature checked by a Peabody state representative.

The winner of the race to fill the seat left open by the death of Joyce Spiliotis, Republican Leah Cole, intends to keep both feet on the ground as she continues her nursing career even after she is sworn in on Beacon Hill.

“I never want to stop working as a nurse,” she said, explaining that nurses can work on a per diem basis. “And that’s what I plan to do.”

She is currently in talks with her employer, Internal Medicine of the North Shore in Danvers, to work out an arrangement.

Meanwhile, she has conferred with House Minority Leader Brad Jones about when she will be sworn in — the results have to be certified by the secretary of state. In the interim, she is sounding out candidates for her chief of staff.

“I want someone from Peabody,” she said.

Additionally, she is working to establish hours when voters can see her.

“I want to get constituent services going,” she said.

Further, she expressed a wish to work closely with Mayor Ted Bettencourt and the City Council.

Once she takes her seat, she can expect help from the other Peabody representative, Democrat Ted Speliotis, who also represents Danvers.

“I hope to work with Leah,” he said. “We can disagree on some things and still know that what’s important to the city has to move forward.”

Speliotis noted that he first took office only weeks after reaching the age of 25.

One of the issues front and center right now is the tax hikes proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick to fund his transportation and education initiatives. The Legislature, in response, has come out with a much-reduced plan of its own. According to Speliotis, Democratic lawmakers are sensing the same public opposition to taxes that Cole is.

“I stand by my message that we don’t need any increases,” Cole said yesterday. “That’s what I would hope to fight. ... My message resonated with the people. ... More accountability — that’s what people want.”

In the moments after her surprise victory, Cole said she heard from a number of people, including former GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker of Swampscott. Others may have had trouble reaching her, as the missed calls piled up on her cellphone. Moreover, she avoids answering the phone while working — and she worked yesterday.

School board member Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne, who narrowly lost the election to Cole, did not call. Rather, she appeared in person during Tuesday’s victory celebration at Champions Pub.

“Beverley was very nice,” Cole said. “She’s a wonderful person, a very classy person.”

Cole reported that her boyfriend was delighted with the victory, but she declined to go into detail. Conceding that she is now a public person, she explained, “My boyfriend didn’t run for office.”

In a press release, Cole’s campaign advised residents that she can be reached at LeahColeCampaign@gmail.com, www.coleforpeabody.com or 774-573-3439.