Tufts University

The Mayor of Hollywood East

Nick PaleologosWhere show business and state business meet, you can find Tufts graduate Nick Paleologos.

Like any good film plot, Nick Paleologos' story has conflict. Consider this scene: Upon graduating from Tufts in 1975, Paleologos had already been serving on the School Committee in his hometown of Woburn, Mass. for the past two years. For the politically minded Paleologos—the youngest person ever elected to the position—everything seemed to be falling into place.

Until the fall, when his re-election bid fell short.

That same fall, Paleologos had begun attending Suffolk Law School in downtown Boston. But he kept replaying the School Committee loss in his head. If only he had another chance, he thought, to explain himself better to voters. So, in a plot twist, Paleologos decided to take one and run for state representative in his home district.

Nick Paleologos

"Gone Baby Gone" was filmed in director and Boston native Ben Affleck's hometown in 2006.

His mother, calling the School Committee loss a "devastating experience," did not initially think it was the best idea. "I think she, more than anything, felt badly for me," says Paleologos. She asked him how many times he would face defeat before getting the message.

As it turned out, that was the last time. Upon winning election in 1976—just a year after graduating from Tufts—he held office until 1990, advocating for education reform and toxic waste cleanup.

But that's only half the story. While Paleologos amassed an impressive legislative resume by day, he was producing plays by night, building on a love of theatre cultivated in a community theatre troupe he joined while in college. Films were thrown into the mix, too, and after he left the Massachusetts State House, his producing career blossomed. In time, the prefaces "Emmy-winning" and "Tony-winning" could be seen before Paleologos' name.

So where is our protagonist now? Hollywood? Sort of. Try "Hollywood East," as Massachusetts is known nowadays. The nickname comes from the hundreds of millions of dollars in film studio investment that Paleologos has helped attract in the past two years as executive director of the Massachusetts Film Office, a position where he blends his political prowess with his showbiz savvy.

It's a role for which Paleologos knows he is uniquely qualified. His story could have no more fitting resolution.

"If there were ever a job that you had to go out to central casting and find someone it was perfect for," Paleologos admits, it was this one.

A Political Animal

From the beginning, there were two sides to Nick Paleologos. Living in Woburn as a commuter student, he was traipsing in the footlights as a member of the Woburn Drama Guild, a community theatre troupe he and some friends founded. They staged plays ranging from "The Odd Couple" to "Inherit the Wind." "We had a ball," recalls Paleologos.

But back on campus, he was a political science major with an eye on a career in law. After canvassing for George McGovern in New Hampshire with fellow Tufts students, he was looking forward to casting his first vote in the 1972 presidential election, thanks to the 26th amendment lowering the national voting age to 18 in 1971.

On election night, Paleologos and his friends were huddled in a dorm room, armed with a pile of food and clipboards, marking which states were likely wins and which were swing states. As it turned out, only Massachusetts went for McGovern, with Richard Nixon carrying every other state.

"If you want to change things, you've got to roll up your sleeves and get involved."

— Nick Paleologos

While it was a depressing evening for Paleologos, the experience left him no less energized to get politically involved. Living at home had set him up to pursue his first political office: a seat on the Woburn School Committee.

"Running the following year for school committee was almost kind of an extension of that spirit of involvement," says Paleologos, who ran for office while still at Tufts. "If you want to change things, you've got to roll up your sleeves and get involved."

When he plotted his run for state representative following his 1975 defeat, Paleologos took a mathematical approach. In March of 1976, he took a map of the district and colored in the streets as he walked down them, talking to voters. By September, the entire district was colored in, so he went back to reconnect with voters who were undecided.

Analyzing past election results, Paleologos figured he needed at least 2,000 votes to win, so he made sure to identify at least 2,000 supporters. On Election Day, Paleologos got 2,120 votes, "and it was enough to win." (continued)

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Profile written by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications

Homepage photo of Paleologos by Bill Brett for The Boston Globe. Photo from "Pink Panther" filming by John Tlumacki for The Boston Globe.

This story originally ran on Sept. 29, 2008.