November 24, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Politics: Yarmouthport Register: Ghana RPCV Matt Patrick is Massachusetts Legislator

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ghana: Peace Corps Ghana : The Peace Corps in Ghana: November 24, 2004: Headlines: COS - Ghana: Politics: Yarmouthport Register: Ghana RPCV Matt Patrick is Massachusetts Legislator

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Ghana RPCV Matt Patrick is Massachusetts Legislator

Ghana RPCV Matt Patrick is Massachusetts Legislator

Ghana RPCV Matt Patrick is Massachusetts Legislator

What makes Matt Patrick run?

By Joe Burns/

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"I get a kick out of making things happen that help people," says Matt Patrick, the Falmouth Democrat who will soon begin his third term as state Representative for the Barnstable 3rd District.

Soft-spoken, and with a social consciousness honed by liberal politics, Catholic doctrine and the sense of responsibility that comes with being the oldest of 10 children, the 52-year-old Patrick eschews the affectations and trappings of the professional politician. Relaxing at home in the cozy family room abutting his closet-size office, a casually dressed Patrick is immersed in an environment that says more about him than any press release could possibly provide.

Worn LPs by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Bob Dylan, Cream and The Kinks share shelf space with an equally aged Whole Earth catalog. VHS movie tapes of "Toy Story," "Fantasia," "Primary Colors" and "The Color Purple" are crowded together on several large shelves along with the collected works of Joseph Lincoln and family board games such as Parcheesi, Monopoly and Scrabble. On a nearby coffee table the "Sturbridge Kitchen" recipe book sits atop a copy of Rolling Stone. A banjo leans against the wall in a far corner. "Moe," a 10-year-old Lab, who looks a bit like "Old Yeller," wanders in to greet a visitor and garner some appreciated pats. One half expects to see Jimmy Stewart sitting on the sofa instead of Patrick.

The casting wouldn't be that far off. A family man, Patrick's daughter Mia, 22 just graduated from the New England School of Photography, and his son Sam, 16, is a junior at Falmouth High School. His own boyhood was spent in the small town of Millstone, N.J. (pop. 410), where his mother, Mary, served and currently serves as mayor. It was there that Patrick developed his passion for politics.

"Over every meal together, politics was the subject for discussion. So we kids sat there and listened to it and ended up enjoying it."

Patrick calls his mother "a good liberal Democrat," and describes his father Charles as an independent-minded man who enjoyed a good debate.

"He liked to argue. He would always be there to offer a different point of view than my mother," Patrick says.

Raised in the Roman Catholic faith, Patrick served as an altar boy and took to heart the lessons he learned from the church.

"The church was very good about teaching the New Testament and how the purpose in life was to help others. That's the teaching of Christ in a nutshell," Patrick says.

Patrick doesn't seem convinced that being the oldest child in his family has contributed to his penchant for public service, but he says that his wife Louise assures him that it has.

"[She] has this theory about families and how we develop our persona. She says, 'you're the oldest and you're used to giving orders, making decisions and taking care of the little ones.'"

Instilled with the desire to serve, Patrick enlisted in the Peace Corps in 1977, where a two-year stint in Ghana added to his education.

"It was a life changing experience," Patrick says. "You go there saying I'm going to help these poor people. You get there and you realize that anything I do will last a year or two after I'm gone."

What he did accomplish was to build bridges between two cultures. Although all weren't ready to walk across that bridge.

"There were a lot of people who thought we were working for the CIA. It's a horrible position to be in," Patrick says.

His reward for his efforts was the opportunity to see America through the eyes of the Third World, an experience he recommends to all those in the media.

Patrick also met his wife while serving in the Peace Corps, and when they completed their service, they moved, in 1980, to Cape Cod.

They bought a house with a Farmers Home Loan, and the 29-year-old Patrick banged nails and patched leaky pipes in order to keep the newly-purchased roof over their heads. In his spare time he fished for trout along the Quashnet River, which runs through Falmouth and Mashpee.

When he learned that a good portion of the land was to be bulldozed and turned into a huge condo complex, his activist instincts kicked in.

"I just said, 'I'm not going to let that happen. I don't know what I can do, but I'm just going to do whatever I can to stop this,'" Patrick recalls. Galvanizing other activists, he led a two-year fight to save the Quashnet, which came to a successful conclusion when the state purchased the property and preserved it as protected conservation land.

From there, Patrick went on to build a résumé that includes involvement in numerous local environmental organizations; executive director for the energy conservation group Cape & Islands Self-Reliance Corp; two terms as a Falmouth selectman and service as Falmouth's representative to the Cape Light Compact.

In 2000 Patrick was elected to the Massachusetts House. Two years ago, Patrick faced the stiffest challenge to his legislative seat, when he defeated his Republican opponent, Larry Wheatley, by a mere 17 votes. Through recounts and court fights, Patrick held on to the seat. This time around Patrick beat Wheatley by 1,500 votes. But the thrill of victory has been tempered by the tone of the race.

"This election really made me wonder why I'm doing it because it was so negative and nasty," says Patrick.

Patrick's position on building a wind farm on Nantucket Sound was an election issue even though, as a state legislator, he has no influence on what is a federal matter. While he had been painted as being in favor of the project, Patrick says he was taking a wait-and-see attitude until the Army Corps of Engineers released its study of the proposal. Now that a favorable draft report has been released, Patrick is looking at projections that see the wind farm creating 500 high-tech jobs as an opportunity for young Cape Codders to get in on the ground floor of a blossoming industry.

"Our kids could be on the cutting edge of that," Patrick says.

The recent campaign also shone a spotlight on Patrick's stance on same-sex marriage and abortion rights, which found him in conflict with the Catholic Church.

"I think they're on the wrong track. I don't want to be too harsh, but there's a lot of hypocrisy there when they endorse a president who's got the blood of a 100,000 Iraqis and thousands of our own soldiers on his hands." Patrick says.

"Catholics should be more concerned about helping people - protecting them, helping the poor, helping to clothe and feed them, making sure they have housing, making sure they have rights."

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Story Source: Yarmouthport Register

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ghana; Politics



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