A fighter for Gloucester
On Peter Anastas's Retirement



Article from The Gloucester Daily Times, 6/25/02

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 or ill-intended.

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 Times.)

"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.

This editorial, marking Peter Anastas' retirement after 30 years of social work, ran in the Gloucester Daily Times on 6/25/02.

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