Bruce PanilaitisSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.
Bruce Panilaitis

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.

TEWKSBURY -- The casino battle that divided Tewksbury this summer could be replayed in the April 5 town election, with a leading figure in the anti-slots movement announcing this weekend his intent to run for selectman.

Foster Road resident Bruce Panilaitis launched his campaign with a Facebook page this weekend, unofficially putting him in the running for the Board of Selectmen seat currently held by Doug Sears.

Nomination papers will become available next Monday, so the race has yet to formally begin.

A Tufts University engineering professor, Panilaitis was appointed to the Finance Committee in November but said the slots issue was his first introduction to a political campaign.

"That made me decide it was time, instead of sort of reacting to things, to get involved and really try to move things in a positive direction," he said.

In August, a proposal to build a slots-only casino on Ames Pond Drive was soundly defeated by a 1,568 to 995 vote at a Special Town Meeting with record-high attendance.

Panilaitis was a prominent member of the grassroots resident group "No Slots Tewksbury," speaking in opposition at public meetings and contributing to the printing and distributing of yard signs.

The battle over the casino, which supporters said would bring the town more than $4 million annually, highlighted a need for new revenue and economic development in town, Panilaitis said.

"I'm not necessarily coming in with a lot of grand plans, but I think I have an analytical approach to things, and I think that's good," he said. "I think if we can strip away the emotional aspects of decision-making and look at facts, figures and statistics, that could mean good things for the town."

Panilaitis, his wife Sue, and their six children have lived in Tewksbury since 2000.

Sears is the only selectman up for re-election in 2014. It is expected that Sears will seek re-election.

On other town boards and committees, School Committee member Brian Dick, Planning Board member Vincent Spada, Library Trustees Robert Homeyer and Patrick Joyce, Board of Health member Charles Roux and Housing Authority member Louise Gearty all face expiring terms.

Town Moderator Keith Rauseo's seat will come up next year as well. He announced earlier this year that he does not plan to run for re-election.

For more on this story, see Tuesday's Sun or visit http://www.lowellsun.com.