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Full Biography for Lou J. Papan
Full Biography for Louis J. Papan
Lou Papan has a distinguished career in public service. He was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1972, where he served until 1986. Papan served as Speaker Pro Tempore from 1974 to 1976, and chaired the powerful Assembly Rules Committee from 1976 to 1986, the longest tenure in Assembly history.
Papan returned to the Assembly in 1996, where he chaired the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee and became known as the "Dean of the Assembly." He served in the Assembly until 2002.
At birth in Springfield, Mass., Lou Papan was named Elias Papandricoupolos, but because the doctor who delivered him was not familiar with the name Elias, he wrote Louis on the birth certificate.
Lou's parents, John and Flora Papandricoupolos, emigrated from Peloponnesus to Springfield, Massachusetts. Both his parents worked to support he and his younger sister, Kiki. His mother, Flora, worked full time in a garment factory for 40 years. His father, John, worked in a restaurant. Lou started school as a latchkey kid, who spoke only Greek. In order to survive, he quickly learned English.
A spunky kid with an entrepreneurial spirit in the middle of the Depression, Lou began shining shoes to help support the family. On a good day, he would bring home more than his father. He went on to work in an armory and a leather factory. He also spent one day working in a tire factory. However, when he came home covered in black soot, his mother refused to let him go back.
Lou graduated from Technical High School and at age 17, he left the security of his close-knit Greek family to join the Army. There is nothing like boot camp in Louisiana to shape up a 17-year-old Greek kid from Massachusetts who thought he knew it all. Sergeant Papandricoupolos's 16-letter last name almost completely encircled his Army helmet.
Following the Army, Lou went to Syracuse University, where he received a B.A. in Economics. As an Air Force reservist in college, upon graduation he served as a 1st Lieutenant during the Korean Conflict. After Korea, Lou entered Georgetown Law School and then attended the F.B.I. Academy. As a Special Agent for the F.B.I., he was sent to San Francisco.
Lou's time in San Francisco changed his life forever, for it was there that he met and married the love of his live, Irene Damis, who was from Portland, Ore., and studying at Mills College. Lou left the F.B.I. and entered the real estate and insurance business and co-founded the Peninsula Bank of Commerce in 1981.
Lou's 42 years of marriage resulted in three beautiful children: John, Gina and Diane.
Gina, formerly a California Deputy Attorney General, is now the Deputy Director of the California Office of Criminal and Justice Planning. She was elected to the Millbrae, CA, City Council in November 2005. Diane practices law in San Francisco.
Regrettably, John suffered for most of his short, 21 years of life from a rare congenital illness. Being parents of a child with special needs became a harsh reality. However, Lou and Irene made the conscious decision to make John's life as full and normal as possible. Despite John's illness his tremendous will and spirit enriched the lives of all he knew, particularly his father, who became committed to making a difference for kids with special needs.
Lou and his late wife, Irene, carried on John's spirit after his passing by starting a scholarship in his name and a not-for-profit clothing bank, John's Closet, the provides new clothes to needy children. In doing so, John's Closet seeks to promote self-esteem and encourage kids to stay in school.
Lou became active in politics in the late 1960s and ran for the Assembly in1972, where he served for 20 years
While in the Legislature, Papan worked tirelessly to champion the causes of children, workers and families. He has written numerous laws improving public instruction for disabled students and the required reporting of child and elder abuse, and authored legislation establishing childcare centers for families with business before the courts.
Papan played a key role in establishing and expanding California's public transportation agencies. He carried legislation to ensure the future reliability of our regional water delivery system, to encourage conservation and recycling on a regional basis, and to assist in financing essential system improvements
Papan has also written significant legislation affecting business in California. As Chairman of the Banking and Finance Committee, he spearheaded efforts to support independent banking institutions and authored legislation to amend state escrow laws to allow internet-based companies to conduct e-business.
Papan also increased Legislative accountability by ensuring that all of the Legislature's records were subject to the California Open Records Act, and ensuring the viability and professional management of the public employees and state teachers retirement systems in California. Papan was also successful in securing funding to purchase beachfront property in Pacifica for the State Parks system and to protect endangered species in an area proposed for development on San Bruno Mountain.
As Chair of the Assembly Rules Committee, Papan oversaw the restoration of the State Capitol, a six-year project with a $67 million budget + the project was completed on time and on budget, and the building now bears a plaque with his name on it. Under his leadership, the Rules Committee was also responsible for the creation of the first minority outreach program in the state Legislature.
Papan received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1996. The award is given by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) to ethnic Americans who have made significant contributions to this country.
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