The process to elect a successor to state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis likely won't begin until 2013 when state lawmakers convene in January for their new legislative session.
Spiliotis, a Peabody Democrat, died early Thursday morning at her home, succumbing to illness. News reports say she had battled cancer. She was 65.
Spiliotis went unchallenged this year and was about to begin her sixth term on Beacon Hill as the representative for the 12th Essex District, which covers most of Peabody. She was also the first female to hold the seat.
Peabody City Clerk Tim Spanos said he spoke briefly with election officials from the Secretary of State's office Thursday morning. He said they outlined the procedure for a special election to fill Spiliotis' seat and told him it was unlikely to begin until the new legislature convenes.
Spanos said his understanding is that the Speaker of the House and the House membership set the guidelines and dates for a special election, which is required under state law for Senate or House seats at either the federal or state level. He said further he was given the impression an interim appointment would not be made.
A call left with Secretary of State spokesman Bryan McNiff was not returned by Thursday afternoon.
This may also be the first time an elected Peabody state official has died while in office.
Spanos, who has worked in the clerk's office for more than 30 years, said he did not recall a previous instance. He said he and former City Clerk Natalie Maga, who spent nearly 30 years as the clerk, also discussed that Thursday and she didn't know of one either.
The official handbook of the Peabody City Council, which includes a historical list of state representatives, does not indicate any member died while in office.
Spiliotis succeeded John Slattery in 2002 when Slattery chose to run for Lieutenant Governor. Before his tenure, former city councilor Tom Walsh represented Peabody from 1987-1994, and before Walsh, Ted Speliotis occupied the 12th Essex seat from 1979-1986. Speliotis lost his reelection bid and then won the 13th Essex District seat several years later.
Spiliotis represents Wards 1-5 in Peabody -- essentially the entire city except for West Peabody. Whoever does eventually decide to run for the seat will likely have deep Peabody roots as well.