WESTFIELD – Typically, Speaker of the State House of Representatives Robert DeLeo does not make plans for the day following the last day of the session, but he made an exception for state Rep. John Velis.
DeLeo made the trip out to Westfield to support Velis at his fundraiser at the Short Stop Bar and Grill on Nov. 20. Public figures from the city and region and Velis supporters made a strong showing at the event.
“I am absolutely humbled by this turnout. It’s amazing,” Velis said to the crowd. “It just means the absolute world to me.”
DeLeo, Velis and his uncle, former Superior Court judge Peter Velis, addressed the capacity room for about 20 minutes.
Though Peter Velis said he had only briefly met DeLeo when his nephew was running for office, he could tell he was a fair speaker of the house.
“He’s different than any speaker I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to tell you why. Simply put, he’s the people’s speaker, Speaker of the House of Representatives meaning he’s the speaker for all of his membership,” he said. “His true membership is really the people of Massachusetts … He knows how to shed the skin of partisanship if he thinks it’s right for the people of this Commonwealth, even if it’s something that would not make him popular in his district.”
Velis echoed the sentiments of his uncle. Velis, who was elected in a special election in April 2014, joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in the midst of budget season. He recalled his first meeting with DeLeo, saying he was nervous, but the speaker simply asked him what Westfield needed.”
“I proceeded to tell him everything we needed, and you know what, folks? We got it,” Velis said.
DeLeo spoke highly of Velis, as well. Before he even met Velis, DeLeo was told he “was going to love this kid.”
Those people, DeLeo said, were not wrong.
“They said he’s straightforward, he’s honest. He’s bright, he’s loyal, he’s committed … I found that everything they said about this man was true,” DeLeo said. “These are just the kind of people we want representing the Commonwealth up at the House. This is the type of person who is going to bring that pride to us, and I can tell you he’s been exactly that.”
The day of the event, Velis’s first signature bill, the Stolen Valor Act, landed on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, after receiving unanimous support in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.
Velis said this speaks to the bipartisanship cooperation in Massachusetts.
“Quite frankly, people are disenfranchised by politics today because nothing gets done … Since I have been a state representative, gun legislation, minimum wage, the heroin opiod epidemic, public records, we voted on all this stuff in a year and a half,” Velis said. “We get things done in Massachusetts because we compromise. We do it in a bipartisan way with a Republican governor.”
As Velis ran for public office, he made a promise to keep Westfield at the forefront of his priorities, and Mayor Brian Sullivan told Reminder Publications that he has done just that.
“He’s brought energy, he’s brought results and he’s brought some enthusiasm from Westfield to Boston and back. We’ve sat down since my election and he’s promised me that we’ll sit down often and he’ll take some of my ideas to Boston. I said I would be there to support whatever he’s looking to do. The relationship has already started,” Sullivan said.
Though Velis will be seeking just his second full term as a representative in 2016, DeLeo said he has already proven himself as one to watch in Boston.
“I can tell you one thing, mark this date down as something you’ll remember, this young man is a rising star in the House of Representative,” DeLeo said.