LACONIA — Peter Spanos recalls being at a crossroads in his life after he graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a master’s degree in political science.
He faced the decision of joining the FBI in Boston or returning to Laconia to help run his family’s hospitality company.
Spanos, 59, chose the latter. It may have been a good thing he did. He missed the Whitey Bulger scandal and built a comfortable life with his family in the Lakes Region.
Spanos, a Republican state representative and member of the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission, recently sat down for an interview with The Laconia Daily Sun to talk about his candidacy for mayor of Laconia. City Councilor Andrew Hosmer also is seeking the office in the Nov. 5 election. Mayor Ed Engler is not seeking re-election.
Spanos said his parents moved to Laconia from Lowell, Massachusetts, where they both worked in a shoe factory. In 1952, for $7,000, they bought The Winnecoette, a hotel on top of a hill at The Weirs, with a commanding view of Lake Winnipesaukee.
George and Mary Spanos renamed it The Shangri-La and set about making necessary improvements. Eventually, they expanded it from 36 to 140 rooms and made it into a full-service resort with indoor and outdoor pools, a ski lift, tennis courts, cocktail lounge and dining room.
In 1970, they sold it, but stayed in the hospitality industry with new properties.
Peter Spanos earned his master’s degree in political science from the University of New Hampshire in 1983, and faced his fateful decision.
“I actually thought about joining the FBI,” he said. “A position was made available in the Boston office, but my father talked me into going to work with him at the Shalimar Hotel at Lake Winnisquam.
“My uncle was a retired Naval captain. I tested well with the FBI and was called in for an interview, and then a subsequent interview. It was made known to me there was an availability there, but you make decisions in life and that really worked out in my favor.
“I worked at the Shalimar for 32 years; bought it in 1983, sold it in 2014.”
He has enjoyed the hotel business.
“It’s nice to have guests who have a good experience,” he said. “They like your service. They like your hospitality, and they come back, that’s the best part of it — seeing the old familiar faces.
“I don’t think anything is more satisfying than to have people come again and again and again.”
Spanos, who is vice-president of sales for ROI Corporation, a business brokerage firm, has been a Republican state representative since 2014.
According to VoteSmart.org, Spanos did not vote on a bill that would increase the minimum wage (SB10) and another that would authorize recreational marijuana sales (HB481).
He has voted against bills that would:
— Authorize funding for the Capitol Corridor Rail Project (SB10);
— Solar energy projects (SB168);
— Establish an office to investigate sexual harassment complaints in the Legislature (SB235);
— Ease Medicaid work requirements (SB290);
— Increase the amount of funds allocated for job training (SB2);
— Authorize undocumented people to get driver’s licenses (HB397);
— Repeal the death penalty (HB455);
— Require paid family and medical leave (HB628).
Spanos has voted in favor of bills that would:
— Authorize sports gambling (HB480);
— Require public workplace deaths and injuries be reported (HB1500);
— Authorize murder charges for someone who causes the death of a fetus (SB66);
— Authorize overpopulated public schools to transfer students elsewhere (SB8);
— Prohibit the use of a victim’s past sexual activity as evidence in sexual assault cases (SB9).
Questions and Answers
1. Why are you running for mayor?
I am running for mayor because this is the city I was born in and I believe I can be an agent for positive change. My memories of Laconia go back over 50 years and this provides me with a unique perspective on where Laconia has been and the direction the city should be taking as we approach the quarter pole of the 21st century.
2. What would be your main priorities if elected?
My main priorities if elected would be to ensure that Laconia’s tax cap remain in place, that the city never become a sanctuary city, and that law enforcement as well as first responders be given every available tool to succeed in retarding the scourge of our times: substance disorder.
3. What makes you qualified for the position?
I believe my strong and successful experience as a small businessman for 34 years as well as my three terms serving on House Finance (committee) make me eminently qualified to be mayor of Laconia. I am equally adept at meeting a payroll for 100 employees as well as having a significant hand in the crafting of a balanced and fiscally prudent budget for the state of New Hampshire. In particular, a budget that does not exceed actual revenue and is fully funded.
4. What are the main problems the city is facing?
In addition to a rampant opioid crisis, Laconia’s population is aging, and younger, upwardly mobile families of child-bearing age must be drawn to the city. This will help offset declining public school enrollment and ensure that the city remain vibrant for years to come.
4. What are the city’s main opportunities going forward?
Laconia has a golden opportunity to come away with a civic auditorium to be envied if the Colonial Theater project is properly managed. This means the enforcement of accountability and deadlines. In addition, Commissioner Rusty McLear has expressed an interest in partnering with Laconia on this project; a proposal I strongly recommend the city embrace. Additionally, the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission, of which I am a member, is formulating some exciting plans for the former Laconia State School property. When completed, this property will provide tourism, tax revenue, and jobs here in Laconia and serve as an attraction to the area of which we can all be proud. It is also important to note that Laconia is not restricted to the downtown district. Weirs Beach, Lakeport Square, Shore Drive, and Old North Main Street are some of many other city areas that must not be overlooked by next year's city officials.
6. Does Laconia need change?
Change in any community is as inevitable as tomorrow’s sunrise.Those in public service can help in encouraging change that benefits the city as a whole. To get younger, replenish public school enrollment, and complete projects like the Colonial and the repurposing of the State School property will require vision and hard work.To restore the downtown public garage to fully operational status will necessitate scrupulous allocation of city funds. Laconia’s next mayor will be required to work closely and cooperatively with the next city council to reach consensus in transitioning Laconia to a better, more prosperous future.