On election night 1960, Harold Pachios was sitting on the floor of a Navy ship in the North Atlantic poring over wire reports, waiting for the state of Illinois to be called. The young lieutenant was fascinated by the election, and as a Kennedy supporter he was thrilled to see JFK announced the winner in the early morning hours.
Pachios had become interested in politics as an undergraduate student at Princeton, but upon leaving college, he went into the military instead of heading directly to Washington, DC. The draft was active, and Pachios estimates 80% of his Princeton classmates also entered the military.
After two years of active duty, Pachios headed to the Washington Navy Yard for four years of reserve service. It was during this time that Pachios began to pursue his career ambitions. He applied to Georgetown Law, was accepted, and began attending night classes. Unlike many of his classmates, Pachios didn’t have any connections in Washington, DC, so he wasn’t able to secure even a mid-level government job while he was in law school. Instead, he worked as a waiter. When a classmate asked Pachios what he was doing for work, his friend wasn’t pleased with his answer. So he arranged an interview for Pachios at a newly formed agency – the Peace Corps.
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Little did Pachios know the man who interviewed him for the Peace Corps position would become a big name in American politics and be a part of his life for decades. Bill Moyers has been a mentor, boss, and close friend to Pachios throughout his career.
Pachios worked for Moyers at the Peace Corps, rising to become a Congressional Liaison within his first year. Through that position, he met George Mitchell who was working as a staffer for Edmund Muskie. Like Moyers, Mitchell would become a close friend of Pachios.
In 1964, a mere four years after he arrived in Washington, DC as an outsider, Pachios was summoned to work on President Lyndon Johnson’s re-election campaign. That position eventually led to a job offer at the White House. However, Pachios was frustrated that he still hadn’t finished law school. He had one semester left and was determined to graduate. He declined the job offer and went back to law school. The White House still wanted his talents, and eventually, he became Associate Press Secretary working directly under Moyers.
After two years at the White House, Pachios was anxious to use his legal knowledge. With the help of the President, not something many people can say, he got a job as a legal advisor at the Department of Transportation. There, he honed his negotiating skills and gained niche expertise in transportation policy. But it wasn’t long before his friend George Mitchell called. Ed Muskie was the vice presidential nominee, and they wanted Pachios on the team. The campaign ended with the Humphrey/Muskie team losing to Nixon/Agnew, and Pachios no longer had a position at the White House. He headed home to Maine.Photo Gallery
When Pachios arrived back home in Cape Elizabeth, he was hired as an attorney with Berman, Berman, Wernick, and Flaherty, a firm of four lawyers. In 1971, the firm merged with another Portland law firm, Preti, Peabody, Johnson, and Smith. Together, the two firms had fewer than a dozen lawyers. But Pachios’ name was on the sign. Portland’s newest law firm was christened Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau, and Pachios.
“That’s when we started getting bigger,” says Pachios.
Since 1971 the firm, now known as Preti Flaherty, has grown into one of Maine’s largest law firms and has expanded outside of the state. Offices in Boston, MA, and Concord, NH extend Preti Flaherty’s reach outside of Maine. The Augusta, ME office anchors the firm’s successful lobbying and governmental affairs operations. These four offices now house over 100 lawyers; a far cry from the initial dozen.
Pachios’ efforts have helped Preti Flaherty grow both in size and reputation over the years, but he’s not content to rest on his laurels. He remains an active partner in the firm and is also active in the community. Over the years he’s supported causes as wide-ranging as the Maine Maritime Academy and the Portland Symphony Orchestra.
He is also involved in the greater Portland community. With a deep understanding of the city’s history, Pachios is pleased to see how far the city has come and is cautiously optimistic. He’s concerned about the impact of the newly-implemented 10% top state income tax rate that passed as a referendum in November, but he is encouraged by the continued development and business growth in the city.
So what advice does Pachios offer to aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs?
“There is truth in the saying; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And luck can play a big part in someone’s success, but you have to take advantage of that luck,” says Pachios. “A lot of people have bad luck in that they are born into poverty, born with parents who are alcoholics or drug addicts. It’s important for people who are successful to think about what role luck played in their success and about whether being unlucky plays a role in the lives of those they look down on. Of course, not all unlucky people are unsuccessful. Many of them have a great drive and motivation to succeed that helps them rise above their circumstances.”
Harold Pachios got lucky when his law school classmate asked him what he did for work. Pachios took advantage of that moment, but his intelligence, hard work, and ability to cultivate relationships propelled him to success as a businessman and lawyer. He has always given back to his community and is highly respected both in and outside of Maine. That’s why Harold Pachios is a Maine Icon.