Antone Tavares '99

 

Real Politik

%334%left%Antone Tavares '99 flashes a huge smile and then laughs when asked about his nickname. "Absolutely nothing," he says. "'T.J.' stands for absolutely nothing.

"Everyone in my family is an Antone, Antony, Anthony, Anton, Antoine-and half of them are shortened to 'Tony.' And with a name like Antone Coehlo Tavares III, you try to make it as short as possible.

"To get my attention, and not the entire male population of the family, they started calling me 'T.J.'-Tony Jr. I'm actually [Antone] the Third, so 'junior' is close enough, but not exact."

A nickname less than exact seems incongruous for a guy who says he lives by a series of five-year plans for his personal, professional and political lives-emphasis on political.

Although only 26, Tavares has been intrigued by and immersed in politics for more than 14 years. His interest in government began when he was a boy watching his mother, Theresa M. Pimental, and father, Edward D. Pimental, fight for improved benefits for Vietnam War veterans who had been exposed to Agent Orange. Tavares's father, a retired Navy officer, is one of them.

"When I was twelve, I actually was held up to a podium by Sen. (George J.) Mitchell (D-Maine) to speak at a Veterans Affairs convention in Portland about Agent Orange and dioxin," Tavares said. "It's kind of a romantic story. It was the start of my getting into politics."

%335%right%After his speech, a state representative from Bath asked if he was interested in becoming a legislative page. For the next six years, Tavares served as a page and then as an intern at the Maine Statehouse.

Tavares's passion for government prompted him in 2001-two years after earning a degree in government-to run for the Waterville City Council. At the city Democratic caucus in September 2001, Tavares pulled off a stunning upset when-with a group of supporters-he walked in unexpectedly and defeated a three-term councilor by a 7-4 vote. His 128-83 election victory at age 24 made him the third-youngest city councilor in Waterville's history. Since then, Tavares has been one of the more outspoken city councilors, even seeking the removal earlier this year of the council chairman.

When he is not dealing with city matters, Tavares is a legislative aide in the House Majority Office in Augusta. "I do constituent work for fourteen [state] reps and the House majority leader," he said. "I love it, absolutely love it."

If all of this were not enough, Tavares also serves on 17 committees or boards and has been named by the Maine Municipal Association to represent Waterville at the National League of Cities, which is based in Washington, D.C., and represents municipal governments throughout the United States.

So far, says Tavares, who was married to Krystal Bickford in August 2001 and also finds time to continue working at local restaurants and in catering, his lives-personal, professional and political-have been going pretty much according to plan. "I went to Colby to get a government degree and go into representative politics," he said. "It's worked out tremendously for me."

Tavares says he expects to remain in representative politics at the local level for a bit longer before moving to a higher level. That might mean Augusta. It could mean setting his sights directly on Washington, D.C. Either way, a career in politics.

"It's been the goal since I was a kid," Tavares said. "As corny as it sounds, it's the best way to make a difference." ,Anthony F. Cristan