What Now, Pete?

Janice Shay

Photography by Jabberpics

Vibrant politician Pete Liakakis has done everything from serve as Burt Reynolds's personal bodyguard to host his own radio show. In January, he steps down as Chairman of the County Commission, but we at South Magazine have our own ideas of what Pete will be up to next. It is 5 o’clock on October 30, less than 24 hours after Hurricane Sandy swept across the Northeast and left millions without electricity and many without homes. County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis was in his office at the county courthouse, finishing the final draft of his letter to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offering to send aid—generators, tools, canned goods, cleaning items, anything that was needed—in the crisis. He wasted no time explaining to me, “I’ve been doing this sort of thing for decades. There’s no reason to wade through time-consuming red tape. They need help now, and Chatham County can give it.” It’s an example of the sort of good work Pete has done all his life. It hardly seems possible that this diminutive man could be such a larger-than-life character, but he has dominated the county political scene for decades. His third cousin, former Mayor Johnny Rousakis, and his longtime friends Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence and Judge Larry Dillon, certainly must have helped shape Pete’s knowledge of city and county government, with all its overlapping needs and political machinations. But, really, he admits it all boils down to this: Pete loves being a civil servant, and he loves Savannah. At 80 years young, the Chairman—or just “Pete,” as most call him—has always been a force of nature when it comes to getting things done for people. The joke in political circles is that Pete can’t lose an election because everyone in Savannah knows him and owes him a favor. That’s not entirely true, of course, but it’s darn close.