, Salem, MA

March 21, 2013

Griffin Dunne: 'I care deeply about Peabody'

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — Editor’s note: The following is the second in a series of articles profiling Peabody’s state representative candidates.

PEABODY — In the past, the Democratic nomination for state representative in Peabody was the equivalent of victory. But not this year, and nominee Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne is leaving no doubts about her loyalty to the party.

On April 2, Griffin Dunne, 55, will face off in a special election against two opponents, Republican Leah Cole and the unenrolled former Democrat (and pledged-to-be-Democrat again) Dave Gravel.

Reminded that the last three Democratic speakers of the Massachusetts House were indicted and convicted of crimes, Griffin Dunne expresses confidence in the party she hopes to join on Beacon Hill.

“I don’t believe there’ll be any problems supporting Speaker (Robert) DeLeo,” she says. “I will support him as I will any member of the party.”

On the other hand, she acknowledges past examples of corruption.

“It’s very unfortunate,” she said. “It discourages many people. I think we have rules we need to follow. The rules are in place to protect the public.” Those who broke the rules, she noted, “are paying the price.”

Likewise, she dismisses the leadership’s supposed reputation for restricting how members vote and speak. Citing her experience in Peabody politics, Griffin Dunne declares, “My experience with the School Committee and in city politics shows me you are able to speak your mind and people will respect you.”

Her allegiance to party may extend to Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to raise nearly $2 billion in taxes for projects including high-speed rail.

“I think his plan is — it’s very far-reaching. It would definitely help us to modernize our state and our services. I have great concerns because of the tax burden on our people.”

Asked if she would support Patrick’s tax increase, she indicates that study is required. “I don’t know yet.”

In general, Griffin Dunne is calling for a careful examination of state spending, prioritizing where the money goes. And she has no doubts about where public money needs to go in Peabody. “Correcting the flooding issue.” Doing it improves the city’s image, attracts new businesses and new residents, and improves the economic health of the entire city, she said.

“Bringing jobs to Peabody is very important,” Griffin Dunne says. “We are in the prime area for businesses. ... I have always advocated for Peabody as a great place to live and bring up your family.”

She speaks also of a need on the state level to “encourage people to use public transportation” by keeping those services up-to-date. “People need to be able to get to work.” Meanwhile, her long experience on the school board informs support for education spending.

Griffin Dunne quickly names friend Joyce Spiliotis as a role model. Her death in November left the seat vacant. Not surprisingly, Griffin Dunne hopes to follow in Spiliotis’ shoes by making constituent services a hallmark of her tenure.

“People come first,” she says.

Born in the J.B. Thomas Hospital, Griffin Dunne is thoroughly Peabody, attending city schools until she graduated from high school, Class of 1976.

“I actually designed our class ring,” she says, describing the image of “The Spirit of ’76” on its face.

She stresses that she had a happy childhood, her father, a welder, built his own company. For that matter, Griffin Dunne counts herself among the first generation of women able to dramatically break free of traditional gender roles. Taking a degree in public service from Northeastern, she later earned a law degree from the Vermont Law School, in 1983.

“I wanted to be a lawyer,” she said. “I went for what I wanted.”

Her introduction to public service included two years in the office of former Peabody Mayor and then-U.S. Rep. Nick Mavroules. Notwithstanding Mavroules’ subsequent corruption conviction, Griffin Dunne stresses his strengths and speaks well of her tenure.

“I’ve always been interested in politics,” she says. “Even in high school.”

It was there that she met her future husband, Bob, an intern and Salem State student. The couple married in 1986. A Dedham native, Bob works as a federal investigator and serves in the Naval Reserve.

For seven years, Griffin Dunne put her law degree to work for the Department of Mental Health. “We would obtain guardianship for the mentally ill. ... It was an extremely meaningful experience dealing with people who needed help, needed support and needed services.”

When children came — eventually four — Griffin Dunne was able to maintain a professional life. Only a year after the birth of her first, she opened her own law practice.

“I did it the way I wanted to,” she says. “Family came first. Family always came first. ... Many women were forced to make a decision — career versus family. I am lucky. I was able to do both.”

Later, she won a spot on the School Committee.

Asked what writings influenced her, Griffin Dunne replies flatly “anything about Abraham Lincoln. ... He held the country together at its worst time. He had great compassion. He was affected deeply by the plight of individual citizens both in the North and South.”

Her own sense of compassion, Griffin Dunne says, stems from her Catholic faith. She attends St. John’s. “It has taught me to listen to people. To be kind. To be honest. To be a good citizen. To be a good custodian of this Earth.”

On the other hand, she separates church teachings from politics. “I have my personal faith. But I will be representing people from all walks of life. I will obey what the law is.”

She comes to voters showcasing her bond to the city. “I care deeply about Peabody and its people. These facts plus my education and experience have prepared me very well for the position of representative. ... I will make sure the people of Peabody are cared for because the government belongs to them.”