By Michael E. Miller
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Says his dad: "I don't know what Panagioti is looking for, he's not looking for a better life... You know that comedian who says I have four kids -- I put two through college and two through the wall... Well, I have three kids. I put two through college, and Panagioti went through the wall."
The same week as the tripod affair, the FBI issued a warning about possible ecoterrorist activity in Lake Worth. A few weeks later, Panagioti was at the Republican National Convention protesting with an "anarchist marching band." In November, he held signs outside the swank Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach while friends Lynn Purvis and Veronica Robleto protested the Scripps biotech park by running topless through the resort.
His dad laughs. "That's not my cup of tea," he says. "He hates the rich people. He's protesting any way he can. I've got different morals." What's Panagioti's mom's reaction? "She loves her kids no matter what. But we don't talk about it. If I say something, she gets upset. But she doesn't give him the reality. I give him the reality."
At a meeting convened by the Global Justice group shortly after the FBI warning, Mayor Rodney Romano challenged residents who were unhappy with the administration to run for office themselves. "I see the brainpower all over the city," he said. "But good people don't step up to the plate."
So Panagioti declared his candidacy and soon issued a platform -- one that advocates seceding from the U.S. government, disbanding the police, dismantling civilization, and changing the name of the town "so we don't honor that greedy, racist, murderer William Jenkins Worth anymore." He added: "If I did get elected, you wouldn't have to recall me, 'cause I'd quit. On my way out of City Hall... I'll need help dragging all the useless paperwork over to the beloved Bonfire on the Beach."
Responds his dad: "The ideas he has are not going to work. I tell him, 'I went through dictatorships, kings, civil war -- all of that in Greece. Those systems don't work anymore.' If he was living 200 years ago, it could be OK. But today, we have a different society."
Romano says Panagioti Tsolkas is just "engaging in his social experiment. It bothers me greatly. What disappoints me about this young man is that he has a lot of potential. I have no right to be paternalistic, but..." Romano sighs, "it sounds like he's not really serious."
Local businesswoman Maryanne Webber -- a self-described liberal Democrat -- thinks "he's making a mockery of the system and a laughingstock of the town."
So is his campaign a joke? "No, it's not a joke," Panagioti Tsolkas says. "But I don't want to trick people into feeling that there's some legitimacy to the way things work around here."
"I know he means good," Panagioti's dad says. "He wants to keep the town natural, no condos and towers. That's the only town that's nice and small, and I would like to keep it this way too. But business is business." As much as he disagrees with his son's politics, he is impressed by what he's accomplished. "He's been to Seattle, to South America. I haven't even been to the places he's been. I took him to try to feed the homeless, and then he wants to become one! Well... he found a way to not work and to feed the homeless without working either! Good luck to him."