By Sue Ellen Woodcock
The two people picked this year for “Man of the Year” and “Woman of the Year” are two people deeply rooted in Winthrop and who active in making sure “Winthrop is Worth It” for now and for the future.
This year Fire Chief Paul Flanagan is the “Man of the Year” and LeighAnn Eruzione is the “Woman of the Year.”
To say that firefighting is in his blood is an understatement, and to say this man has left a mark on the Town of Winthrop is also an understatement. Flanagan has been in this community all his life, both personally and professionally.
Not only is he the fire chief, Flanagan, 62, also sits on the Board of the MWRA (Massachusetts Water Resources Authority); he’s the director of Emergency Management; a member of the Traffic Safety Committee (TSAC) and he’s the jurisdictional point of contact for the Metro Boston Homeland Security Unit.
The firefighter tradition is deep in the family from his grandfather to father to his brothers, Chuck and Robert. Flanagan, being chief, is always on call.
The chief is proud to say he got to work for 10 years with his father, Charles Joseph Flanagan, who retired as chief in 1990. The family has 158 years of service to the town.
“The most important thing to my father was family and the fire department came in a close second,” Flanagan said. “I used to run out at night for the fires with him. My father instilled in us hard work and community service.”
Flanagan, who has 34 firefighters under him, is a Winthrop man through and through. He was raised here, raised his family here. His son Andrew is the town manager in Andover.
“I run under the radar screen,” Flanagan said, crediting a trainer at RPM Fitness for keeping him in good physical shape.
The work ethic in his family is that “they don’t go by the clock they go by when the work is done.”
He even one time helped out CASA by bringing emergency floodlights to Ingleside Park for a game of laser tag. When the event was done he came back an got the lights at 11 p.m.
Flanagan is also the man responsible for bringing the fireworks to the town every Fourth of July. He raises the money, negotiates the contract and makes sure nothing goes off without a hitch. He’s also great at obtaining grants for the town. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been obtained in equipment, radios, and training for both police and fire.
When he’s not working he’s gutting a new house he brought with his wife Susan and his two labradoodles: Jake and Ruffles.
Flanagan is a graduate of Winthrop High School and North Shore Community College. He is also a licensed electrician.
He remembers the first fire he went to professionally. It was a mutual aid call to a massive fire in Lynn, which took 22 buildings in the downtown area.
“I can take accolades but it’s the 34 firefighters in Winthrop who make the department a success,” Flanagan said. “When you show confidence firefighters will have a successful impact on the success of the operation.”
He hopes in the near future for the town to have a new fire station. The station on Pauline Street was built in 1887 and the other one on Shirley Street was build in 1904.
It’s hard to say where LeighAnn Eruzione, 33, gets the energy to do all she does and then come home to a husband and three little boys all under the age of 5.
She is known in Winthrop for her work at CASA (Community Action for Safe Alternatives) and she sells real estate at Cottage Hill Real Estate and she is a social worker, LICSW, at the Institute for Healthy Recovery in Cambridge where she is the coordinator for the SAFE Project, where she oversees licensed clinicians in a community based substance abuse treatment facility.
Those who know her know she never stops working for Winthrop. She spends 20 hours at CASA, 20 hours in Cambridge and real estate when she can. Working in local real estate affords her the opportunity in reviving the town center.
Helping raise the children are husband Tim Callinan, a Winthrop Police Detective, and her parents Michael (of 1980 Olympic fame) and Donna (who is a lifesaver with the kids.) Eruzione and her family are deeply rooted in Winthrop. Her father is one of six and her mom is one of 10.
“Eighty five percent of my family lives in Winthrop.” Eruzione said.
For Eruzione it’s important to have an organization like CASA. She worked at the original Kathy’s Place running the after-school drop in center. Today Eruzione wants to see CASA become a well-versed resource for a supportive community that provides a positive place for kids.
“She uses her influence and is diplomatic for the good of the community,” said Amy Epstein, executive director of CASA. “She is the voice and the face of CASA. She makes sure the message of CASA is well-received.
Eruzione has worked with others at CASA on the fight against opioid abuse. She worked on the FED Up rally this summer raising awareness about drug abuse. Eruzione helped lead the way with the youth-risk assessment survey. She is well-respected and is invaluable to an organization like CASA, with her education and community melded together to impact change.
“She really gets it because she is from here,” Epstein said.
Eruzione is a “doer” who wants to address a problem. She is one who talks, not complains. She is also more than capable of identifying a need and then come in and help. This spills over to her real estate career where being a people person is a natural fit when it comes to buyers and sellers.
“It’s important for me to see a community grow and develop in a healthy way,” Eruzione said. “We’re a tight knit community but we’re growing from within.”
Eruzione is a psychology degree graduate of Curry College, holds a masters degree in social work from Boston University.