|October 25th, 2009|
Ted Gatsas: Republican has a long history of winning.
Ted Gatsas is keeping count. For months now, the Republican alderman, state senator and now mayoral candidate has been counting down the days until the election. Gatsas jots the number almost every morning on the whiteboard in the campaign office, and he frequently slips it into interviews, so that on a routine Monday afternoon in late June, it’s clear he knows he has been in the race for 20 days and has 78 more to go until the primary.
“It’s something to look forward to,” Gatsas said more recently, in an interview downtown. There were, he volunteered, exactly 18 days to go until Election Day.
Among the aldermen in City Hall, Gatsas is known as a numbers man, the sort of details-oriented politician who plucks stray facts and figures out of thick stacks of documents before confronting city department heads, sometimes belligerently, at public meetings.
His manner has earned him respect from some, criticism from others. Either way, it has gotten him to where he is today, on the cusp of becoming the next mayor of Manchester.
By most indicators, the race would seem Gatsas’ to lose. Gatsas was far and away the top vote getter in the September primary, garnering 46 percent of the vote in a five-way race. His rival going into the general election Democratic Alderman Mark Roy, got just 29 percent.
The Republican’s campaign operation is bigger and sleeker than Roy’s, and it has built a war chest that Roy has not come close to matching.
“I see this campaign as much different that most campaigns that you see,” Gatsas said. “We do things much differently, much more methodical. We have time frames that we follow. And it’s certainly about keeping the candidate busy.”
His methods have tended to work. Since his entrance into politics a decade ago, Gatsas has competed in 10 elections, alternating each year between aldermanic and state senate campaigns. He has never lost.
“He’s an aggressive campaigner, there’s no doubt about it,” said Democratic attorney Bob Backus, who has twice lost bids to oust Gatsas from the State Senate. “Look at all his signs. He’s the king of signs.”
His aggressiveness, critics say, can sometimes come across as arrogance. The first time he debated Gatsas, Backus said he was “quite shocked” his opponent didn’t offer to shake his hand. On election night, both in 2006 and 2008 Backus left messages congratulating Gatsas on his victory. “He never returned the call, either time,” Backus said.
Demanding, and successful
In the aldermanic chambers, Gatsas is often the first to crack a joke. He can also be demanding, occasionally scolding department heads who aren’t able to answer his questions.
“Look, Ted definitely has the courage of his convictions,” former Alderman Kelleigh Murphy, a Democrat who is supporting Gatsas’ campaign.” And Ted’s approach is brash, but so was Winston Churchill’s. Effective leadership is effective leadership regardless.”
Gatsas acknowledges the reputation but says he’s “not the mean, ugly guy everyone thinks” he is.
“Maybe my stature, the loudness of my voice, sends people a different kind of message,” he said. “But I can tell you, if you talk to the people that have worked for me, I think they’d tell you I’m a pretty good guy to work for.”
Success has followed Gatsas in just about all of his professional, political and even recreational endeavors.
As a businessman, he co-founded Staffing Network Inc., that at one point, he said, was raking in about $250 million a year in revenue. Gatsas and his brother, Michael, eventually sold the company for roughly $40 million in stock.
Later, as the owners of a racehorse stable, the Gatsas brothers bought a gelding named Gander for $45,000. The horse would go on to earn more than $1.8 million in racing prizes.
Should the subject arise, Gatsas will note he was a three-sport athlete at Manchester Central High School, and that in his junior year, all three of his teams – baseball, basketball and football – won the state championship. “That’s probably why I am the way I am, being very competitive,” he said.
Gatsas didn’t have a plan when he graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1973 with a degree in general science. He and his brother ended up going into real estate, and within a few years, they struck out on their own. It was the experience of running their own firm that led them to their next venture, in what could then be described as the burgeoning industry of employee leasing.
Staffing Network handled the paperwork for small businesses that wanted help with payroll, workers’ compensation and insurance obligations. By 1997, when Gatsas and his brother sold the company, it had become the largest of its kind in New England.
Gatsas retired a multi-millionaire. In 1999, he and his brother donated $500,000 to the city to help build what’s now known as the Gatsas Athletic Complex in Livingston Park.
Today, Gatsas and his wife, Cassandra, live in a cape-style home near Derryfield Park – the house they bought in 1984 – and spend some of the warmer months in a mobile home at Hampton Beach. Each drives a Mercedes. They used to have a share in an eight-seat plane, handy for jetting off to horse races in New York and Florida, but they gave it up, Gatsas said, when fuel prices spiked.
“I live the life that everybody else lives,” he said. “Maybe I have the ability to buy a more expensive car, but I eat in the same restaurants, I live in the same neighborhoods as they do.”
Gatsas said he hasn’t spent any of his own money on his mayoral campaign, but he’s willing to if he feels that’s what it will take to win. His campaign is heading into the final week with new ads on the radio and mailers going out to homes across the city.
“He’s staying the course,” said Jim Schubert, his campaign co-chairman. He knows what he’s doing. I guarantee you that.”
Gatsas said he is looking forward to the campaign’s end. “I think the crescendo is there,” he said. The election, he would note, is just nine days away.
- written by Scott Brooks for the New Hampshire Sunday News, October 25, 2009
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