“I have the right skills with the right background and the right resume,” said Anthony Schiavi, Republican candidate for the Cape & Islands state senate seat.
Schiavi, 55, of Harwich, is a retired Brigadier General who served in both the Air Force and Air National Guard. He is the former executive director of the Massachusetts Military Reservation, which is now called Joint Base Cape Cod. After retiring from the Air National Guard, he served as town manager for the town of Ashland.
“I knew I wanted to serve in elective office,” said Schiavi of his decision to run. “After 33 years of public service, and seeing in each step how I was able to influence more constituents in a positive way,” Schiavi said he sees the senate seat as a way to help even more people.
Schiavi said he has worked closely with legislators, both at the military base and as town manager of Ashland, and he understands the process of government. “I’ve worked with everybody and anybody to implement change,” he said.
The Boy Who Wanted To Be A Police Officer
Schiavi, the middle of three children, was born in Framingham and grew up in Holliston. His father was a Navy veteran who served in Korea and then worked for a family dairy farm in Holliston. His mother worked as an office manager for a number of beer distributors, he said.
As a teenager, Schiavi worked on the same family dairy farm as his father. “I lived about two miles away,” he said. “It’s a hard life. I spent a lot of time there. I learned to drive and operate machinery.”
When he was young, Schiavi dreamed of being a police officer, “specifically a state trooper,” he said. “It was something that always interested me.” His father, who passed away when Schiavi was young, wanted to be a state trooper and that stuck with him, he said.
After graduating from high school, Schiavi enrolled in Assumption College, where he earned a degree in mathematics. “It gives you critical thinking skills,” he said of his degree path. “It came fairly natural to me.”
He did not intend to be a professor or anything of the sort. He just knew the math would help in whatever he chose. And, while at Assumption College, he took several criminal justice courses.
“I’m always looking for opportunities,” he said. “I’m never so rigid on a path not to change up what I’m doing.”
But, he said, “I wasn’t exactly sure where I was headed,” He began to consider the military. “At the end of my sophomore year, I pulled out a postcard from my mail saying it was the last chance to enroll in ROTC.”
Schiavi entered into Air Force ROTC with the hope of becoming a pilot. “I had never flown airplanes,” he said. He was sent to a six-week training camp where he got an opportunity to fly a Cessna T-37, a trainer aircraft. He said he thought, “This is cool stuff. I can do this.” he said.
But he was given his full scholarship because he was a math major. If he switched to pilot training, he would not keep his full scholarship. Schiavi said he needed the scholarship.
His next option was to try for a pilot training slot at the end of his senior year, he said. He went for it but “the physical got hung up” because he’d had two knee operations from playing college football, he said.
Instead, he got a non-flying assignment as a officer at Boeing, but he did not give up. “I wasn’t going to give up until I reached a brick wall,” said Schiavi.
He went into see his commander for advice on how to get into pilot training. He then talked to several other pilots who were accepted and found out what qualifications they had that he did not.
“I made a grid before Excel,” he said. “It revealed important stuff to me.”
Those who had gotten into flight school had some qualifications that he did not, including, for instance, a private pilot’s license. He began checking those things off, and applying every six months.
“It was a two and a half year effort to get selected for pilot training,” he said.
Going to Battle; Becoming A Leader
Schiavi went to pilot training in Texas and he “graduated at the top of the class,” he said. He was given his first choice of airplane, the F-15, and he was assigned to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. “It takes several years and a lot of money to train a pilot,” he said.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and Schiavi was sent to Saudi Arabia as part of the effort to liberate Kuwait. He was part of “the most decorated of the air superiority squadrons. We had 33 air-to-air victories,” he said. Schiavi shot down an enemy MiG-23 on January 26, 1991, he said.
“When it’s happening, you’re relying on training,” he said. “It was the most textbook of any of them, the way it started and ended for the coalition side of things.” Shiavi said, “I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for that particular engagement.”
“It’s always about continuing to progress and taking on new responsibilities.” – Anthony Schiavi
The air-to-air battle was later chronicled on the History Channel. “That was pretty neat,” said Schiavi.
After the war, he was in active duty but in the Air National Guard. “They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said Schiavi. “Get off of active duty and join the Air National Guard in the 102nd Fighter Wing.
He was the training officer on F15s there, and then in 1994 he was selected to go to Air Force Fighter Weapons School, “the Air Force equivalent of Top Gun.”
When Schiavi returned from that school, he became the weapons officer at the military base, training all the pilots on weapons and tactics. “It’s one of the most coveted jobs,” he said. “You’re considered the weapons expert for the unit.”
It fit with a theme of his. “It’s always about continuing to progress and taking on new responsibilities.”
He was then selected to take over the command of the entire operations group, “all the pilots, intelligence, life support and air field operations,” said Schiavi. “I was thrust into a major leadership position at a pretty young point in my career,” he said.
In the late 1990s, the base had a mission to defend the northeast part of the country, and training. As the cold war was ending, Schiavi said that mission changed and the 102nd “became a worldwide deployable fighter unit.”
The wing was sent to Turkey and to Saudia Arabia to support to no-fly zone over Iraq.
When the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred, the first military planes on the scene arrived from the Massachusetts Military Reservation.
“I was in charge of operations,” said Schiavi.
While the pilots who responded were being told of the astonishing possibility that they may be asked to shoot down a commercial airliner, Shiavi went to work trying to set up help for any pilot who might actually do that.
“I knew that if any one of those guys in that room was to be given that order, they would do it and carry it out but they would never be the same again,” said Schiavi. “I had chaplains on stand by. I had medical personnel on stand by, knowing that when that pilot came back, they were going to need help.”
The order never came, but Schiavi knew it was possible. “It was suddenly a different time. Our military mindset was that the threat was another country where they wore a uniform and had a flag,” he said. “There was some identity to the enemy.”
“In this particular case, if we had to take action, we were looking at a plane that we see every day, with ‘Delta,’ ‘United,’ or ‘American’ written on the side,” said Shiavi.
To get through the overwhelming nature of such a thing, Shiavi said, “you end up compartmentalizing.”
One thing that stuck with him was how impressed he was that the emergency plan to shut down the air space over the country except for military jets was implemented so fast. “It’s actually mind blowing that that was able to happen,” he said.
Transitioning The Base, And Then A Life
Up until the airplanes were moved, Shiavi thought the Massachusetts Military Reservation, by mere virtue of its place on the map, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, would never close.
“Ultimately, it came down to dollars and cents,” he said.
While it was “a devastating time,” Shiavi said it was also “an opportunity to try to find a new mission.”
“We had to work with the governor, the state senator, and congressmen to try to find ourselves a future,” he said. There were 1,300 jobs at stake, he said. “There were families and people involved in this,” said Schiavi.
And so the base transitioned from the fighter wing to the intelligence wing, and Shiavi was “the last fighter wing commander and the first intelligence wing commander,” he said.
“We had to work with the governor, the state senator, and congressmen to try to find ourselves a future.” Anthony Schiavi
He became executive director of the Massachusetts Military Reservation in 2012. The base then transitioned into Joint Base Cape Cod.
Schiavi retired from the military in 2013.
He was then hired over 67 other applicants for the job of town manager and police commissioner in Ashland, he said. He lived in Harwich and commuted.
Ashland, Shiavi said, is right next to Holliston, where he grew up. He knew the area, and he knew how a town works by running things at the base. “We ran a wastewater treatment plant, we had a water department, a DPW. In a lot of ways, I was kind of like a town manager,” he said.
Shiavi said the job was “about leadership.”
“When I went to Ashland, the town was facing some significant financial issues,” he said. “Within one budget cycle, we had a balanced budget,” he said. “And we didn’t cut services. We enhanced services.”
He served as town manager in Ashland for three years. He left “because I am running for state senate.”
“When Dan Wolf decided not to run,” Shiavi said he decided he would run “based on my military experience, my town government experience, and seeing how the state house runs.”
Schiavi called the district he would represent “very unique,” and noted that “two parts of the district are connected by water. It’s a unique challenge.”
He said he viewed the job of state senator as multi-faceted. “A lot of what a state senator does is look at writing legislation and creating laws,” he said. “A lot of times we end up with not the best legislation. It’s hard to actually look at it and figure out what’s going to happen. If you pick up a law, sometimes the average person can’t understand what is being said.”
He said he hopes to get clearer laws that are easier to understand.
And, he said the job of the senator is to bring resources to help local communities, and to work with local communities. He said he worked with elected officials and saw that done when he was at the military base and as town manager in Ashland.
“With some public investment, you can drive private investment,” said Schiavi. “I know I can help with that.”
Schiavi acknowledges he would be in the minority as a Republican in the Democratic-dominated legislature.
He describes himself as a “moderate Republican,” and said he has proven his ability to work with those of all political persuasions.
And he put it in this perspective: “You may be one of 40 senators, but you are THE state senator for the Cape and Islands. The job is to advocate for things, and advocate successfully,” he said.
The Issues: Jobs, Housing, Opiates, the Environment
“I don’t work in the world of no, we can’t do that,” said Schiavi.
The twin needs of lower cost housing and higher paying jobs are both big, he said, but they can be solved.
“We need housing stock on the Cape that covers the different stages of life that people find themselves in,” said Schiavi. While creating zoning to make this happen is a local decision, there is no one size fits all for the various towns on the Cape, Shiavi said.
The role of a senator is “creating the right conditions for local communities,” he said.
And he suggested that towns should work with developers ahead of time to come up with good plans that can get approved. As a former town manager, he said he has seen, “A lot of times, developers come in with a plan they have spent thousands of dollars on, and they are reluctant to change,” he said.
Affordable housing laws, such as 40B need “tweaking or changing to make it more flexible,” he said.
Another area that a senator can help with, said Shiavi, is with state funding for infrastructure to communities. “Setting the right conditions gives the opportunity for development,” he said.
Schiavi said he believed there were good jobs on the Cape, but not enough workers. But he said new jobs were needed and added that infrastructure will help bring jobs. There is also a need for more workforce training, he said.
He cited the new designation of the military base as a test site for drones as an opportunity to lure new business to the Cape. And he said there are opportunities to bring in manufacturing jobs.
Another big issue on the Cape, said Shiavi, is “the insidious rise in opiate addiction. Cape Cod is gripped harder than any place in the commonwealth. It’s going to take an effort in a number of different places. Everything from strong education to early intervention.”
“There needs to be more treatment options and beds on the Cape,” he said.
And he supports research for better ways to treat pain, as well as better regulating what pills doctors give out. He said he has heard of two oral surgeons performing the same surgery and each giving out very different prescriptions.
Schiavi said the criminal justice system is not a good place to be dealing with addicts, but added that “those who are poisoning our community” should be held responsible. “I’m not a doctor, but there’s some evidence there’s a disconnect between some physicians and how many pills you walk out the door with,” said Schiavi.
Finally, Pot & Presidential Politics
Asked about the question on the ballot to legalize marijuana, Schiavi said, “I am opposed to it for a lot of different reasons. It’s a bad idea for Massachusetts. There is too much negative information about it.”
He said he was opposed to “legalizing another intoxicant.”
Asked about the presidential campaign, Schiavi said, “It’s pretty tragic that the two presidential candidates have the highest disapproval rating of any time in history.”
Schiavi added. “I haven’t endorsed any candidate. I don’t plan on endorsing any candidate.”
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