“That’s what started my career,” said Speliotis, who said he wanted to be a state representative because “you could write legislation that affected change on a large scale.”
Speliotis’ life changed again when his father died at 55, after suffering a mild stroke in 1979, Speliotis’ first year in office.
“I watched for eight weeks, my dad lie (unconscious) at Hunt Hospital ... and watch families agonize every day over life and death questions.”
That experience led Speliotis to sponsor health care proxy legislation with former state Rep. Richard Voke of Chelsea. The legislation allowed a person to name another to carry out one’s end-of-life wishes. They filed the bill in 1980. It took about 10 years to pass, Speliotis said.
In 1986, Speliotis’ legislative career came to an abrupt halt when he lost his 12th Essex District seat by 72 votes to Peabody City Councillor Tom Walsh in the Democratic primary. Speliotis said at the time, neither of Peabody’s state representatives lived in the city. Walsh used this to his advantage. Speliotis said he got 86 percent of the vote in Danvers, but he could not make up the difference in Peabody.
“It’s one of the things that motivates me to keep campaigning, is that I know that that can happen at any time,” Speliotis said about the possibility he could lose.
A year later, Speliotis won election as Danvers town moderator, and served in that position for seven years. He also worked in government affairs for Northeastern University.
In 1997, former Danvers state Rep. Sally Kerans decided not to run for re-election, and Speliotis won her seat representing the 13th Essex District. Redistricting had shifted much of Peabody to the 12th Essex, and Speliotis wound up living in the 13th Essex.
At the time, Speliotis had wanted to run again, and he recalled being urged to do so by Voke.