ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate for councilor-at-large.
By THOMAS GRILLO
LYNN — Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring for an at-large seat on the City Council.
“I see a lot of disconnect between the council, the mayor’s office and the community,” said the 47-year-old owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood. “We need more of a collaborative effort and I really think I can change things.”
Married with two children, Nikolakopoulos said he will focus his campaign on a handful of issues that promise to advance the city.
“The key is economic growth,” he said.
First, the city must invest in a planning department, he said. While other communities like Salem and Somerville have robust planning divisions that guide development, he said Lynn is lacking.
“When you call the city of Salem and tell them you plan to invest $2 million, you get someone who will guide you through the process,” she said. “Within a few steps, you know where you stand.”
On how the cash-strapped city would pay for a new department, he said, “I think we can find $300,000 in a $300 million budget.”
The other thing needed to spur growth, he said, is streamlined permitting.
“It still takes as much as four times longer to get permits in Lynn than competing municipalities,” he said.
Nikolakopoulos would also update the city’s plans for the Lynnway and add manufacturing to the mix of allowed uses on the non-waterside section of the busy road.
“My idea is to create a unique overlay district for manufacturing to bring in revenue,” he said.
On schools, he favors the controversial ballot question scheduled for March 14 to support construction of two new middle schools at a cost of $188.5 million.
“I am voting yes,” he said.
If approved, a 652-student school would be built near on Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on Commercial Street. While parents in the Pickering Middle School district support the project, there’s opposition from many Pine Hill residents who oppose the new school on Pine Grove Cemetery land near Breeds Pond Reservoir.
Nikolakopoulos said he also favors teaching trades at Lynn English and Classical high schools.
“Teaching trade skills at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute is not enough,” he said. “We need to offer it at the other high schools. Not every family can afford a four-year college.”
On how to pay for expanded services, he suggested returning parking meters to the downtown as a way to generate revenue.
Nikolakopoulos emigrated to the U.S. from Kalamata, Greece in the 1970s with his parents at age 4 during a time of political unrest in the southeast European nation.
He was enrolled in a Greek bilingual program at Washington Elementary School, attended St. Mary’s High School and later graduated from the College of St. Joseph’s, a small Catholic school in Vermont, where he was soccer captain.
After graduation, he worked a few jobs at the State House, including as a research analyst for the Joint Committee on Transportation. All the while, he helped his family at the restaurant.
“I’ve been working more than 70 hours a week since I was 22,” he said. “I don’t have free weekends, unless I go away.”
Nikolakopoulos joins what is expected to be a crowded field that includes incumbents Brian LaPierre, Buzzy Barton, Hong Net and Daniel Cahill. It’s unclear whether Cahill, who was elected as a state representative last year, will seek reelection.
In addition, Jaime Figueroa, a 28-year-old Suffolk University student, hopes to be the city’s first Latino councilor and Brian Field, who works at Solimine Funeral Homes, said he is considering a run.
Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]