, Salem, MA

March 1, 2014

Letter: Salem lucky to have Keenan

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

Eleven years ago, my father introduced me to a man he used to coach at Salem High. John Keenan was then Salem’s city solicitor and considering running for state representative. I was struck by his enthusiasm for Salem and his knowledge of the issues facing the city and the commonwealth. When he asked if I would manage his campaign, I agreed.

John’s connections with the people of Salem are deep and personal. When he began knocking on doors, voters were moved by his integrity, his passion for Salem, and his commitment to do right by them and by our community. After his election in 2004, I was honored to join him as his legislative aide in Boston.

I had the good fortune to work for a legislator with whom I agreed on many issues — issues on which he was not afraid to speak his mind. From his early support for marriage equality, to his principled opposition to the death penalty. From allowing patients the freedom to choose medical marijuana, to a career-long commitment to end violence against women, which reaches back to his service as one of the first assistant district attorneys in Essex County’s Domestic Violence Unit. I was especially proud to work for him as he and former state Sen. Fred Berry drafted the earliest versions of the “hold harmless” law that has saved the average Salem taxpayer thousands of dollars over the last few years.

So many of the great advances in Salem over the last decade — the Ruane Judicial Center, the Salem Ferry and wharf, the MBTA garage, the new SSU library — are attributable to his leadership and hard work.

His most important legacy and positive contribution to Salem, however, will doubtless be the power plant. John has been a strong advocate for the cleanup and redevelopment of Salem Harbor Station, a billion-dollar investment in Salem that will combat climate change, protect taxpayers, ensure the reliability of our electrical grid and open up acres of waterfront property for future development, enhancing our vibrant harbor and growing our tax base.

It was not simply on the larger issues that John’s work as Salem’s representative shone through, however. I saw daily how effective he was with the constituent services and casework that are the most fundamental and meaningful work that a legislator does. From fuel assistance to veterans benefits, from housing to tax issues, John made a positive difference in the lives of so many he represented by serving as their advocate and voice in Boston.

It was a privilege to work for John, on the campaign trail and on Beacon Hill, and to work with him in my current position as Mayor Driscoll’s chief aide. John officiated at my wedding, and I count myself lucky to call him a good friend. The people of Salem have been fortunate to have someone with his tenacity, integrity and commitment working on their behalf in Boston.

Dominick Pangallo