SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

December 4, 2012

Our view: Peabody citizens lose a champion

Every good politician knows the importance of constituent service. Making sure a dangerous pothole is patched, advising a family looking for the right care for an elderly parent or helping a family in need find heating oil during a cold winter is a vital part of an elected official’s job, be they a city councilor or state representative.

For some officials, constituent service is an obligation. For Joyce Spiliotis, it was a calling.

The longtime Peabody city councilor and state representative died early Thursday morning at 65 after a brief illness.

“She was the rare pragmatic politician who used her votes to take care of real people,” Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry said last week. “She will be missed by those folks she worked so hard to help.”

While she and her supporters were fond of the monicker “the people’s Joyce,” a play on the phrase “the people’s choice,” there was nothing gimmicky about her connection with the citizens of Peabody.

Not only did Spiliotis seem to know the name of most of the city’s senior citizens, former Mayor Michael Bonfanti said last week, she knew them so well she could name their hairstylists.

“She has been supportive of people and their concerns as long as I can remember,” Bonfanti told reporter Bethany Bray. “Her heart has been in the city of Peabody.”

She was a longtime Democrat but didn’t let party affiliations define her friendships, be they political or personal. She shared commutes into Boston with legislators from both sides of the aisle, included Salem Democrat John Keenan and Ipswich Republican Brad Hill, who recalled “the warmth she had for every citizen that called that office, to ensure they got the help they needed.”

Spiliotis’ work wasn’t limited to one-on-one constituent issues. She played a key role in securing money to address the city’s flooding problems, supported city officials’ efforts to build a new middle school and advocated for cleanup work at Crystal Lake in West Peabody. She was also a driving force behind the creation of the Essex County Commission on the Status of Women.

We agree with Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who told Bray her passing “is a tremendous loss to this city.”

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