Peter Anastas is retiring? We find that unlikely. Anastas may be leaving his job as advocacy
director at Action after nearly 30 years, but no one will ever describe him as retiring.
Anastas is one of those rare individuals who lives an authentic life. In his work at Action, he has
helped hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people to live better lives, mostly through housing
assistance but in other ways as well. He has helped create educational and training programs,
he oversees Action's homeless shelter, he lobbies for state and federal programs and he has
personally helped people loosen the shackles of poverty.
No one ever got rich doing this kind of work, but Anastas has not judged the worth of his efforts
by his paycheck. Other idealists may have made their way to Wall Street, but Anastas put his
ideals into action, so to speak.
Those ideals don't stop with his job. Anastas has thrown himself into Gloucester politics over the
years. From the Cape Ann Concerned Citizens in the 1970s to today's Gloucester Initiatives,
Anastas has worked with like-minded activists to preserve the Gloucester he loves. He has
been front and center in some of the hottest debates in recent years, such as opposing the
Gloucester Landing mall proposed for the waterfront.
He has even distilled his vision of Gloucester into a position paper that starts: "To preserve and
enhance historic Gloucester, including the physical environment, culture and folkways, while
assuring a high quality of life for each of her citizens." His is a Gloucester with a
marine-industrial waterfront, an active citizenry, a pedestrian-friendly downtown, affordable
housing, living wages, good schools and "manageable, human-scale tourism." There are many
who disagree with Anastas' goals or tactics — he was one of several activists unsuccessfully
sued for libel by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 1998 — but few would say he was ineffective
In addition to his job and his political activity, Anastas is a thoughtful, talented man of words. A
keeper of the Charles Olson flame, Anastas is a published author and former Times columnist.
(This son of a Greek immigrant now sees his own son's books reviewed by the New York
"The people of Gloucester are the greatest teachers a writer could ever have. They're great
levelers, great democrats. A writer learns humility from these people — and you can't write
without humility," Anastas told Times writer Peter Tuttle in 1973. "Everything I've learned about
people, I've learned in Gloucester. I may be critical of Gloucester sometimes, but it's only
because I love Gloucester."
Thirty years after he said those words, Anastas is still writing and fighting with passion and will,
and Gloucester needs him today as much as it ever has.