Local political giant Louis J. Papan, who represented San Mateo County for two decades in the California state Assembly, died suddenly Saturday evening of an apparent heart attack. He was 78.
Papan served as a Daly City councilman, real estate broker, insurance agent and, most notably, assemblyman representing the 19th Assembly District between 1972 and 1986 and then again between 1996 and 2002, when he was termed out of office. His political career ended with an unsuccessful bid in 2006 for the Democratic nomination for California state Senate District 8, a seat now held by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.
Papan, born in Springfield, Mass., was named Elias Papandricoupolos, but because the doctor who delivered him was not familiar with the name, he wrote Louis on the birth certificate.
He met his wife, Irene Damis, now deceased, in San Francisco. They had three children, John, Virginia and Diane. John, who suffered from a rare congenital disease, died at the age of 21 and spurred Papan’s interest in special-needs children.
Papan is probably best known as an advocate for disabled children, having authored numerous laws improving public instruction for disabled students and the mandatory reporting of child and elder abuse.
Daughter and Millbrae City Councilwoman Virginia “Gina” Papan said Sunday that he was “the real deal.”
“He was the kind of guy who would get things done,” Gina Papan said.
Papan was a powerful voice in local politics, having chaired the Assembly Rules Committee and earned the nickname “Dean of the Assembly.” He was also known locally for sometimes contentious relations with his fellow party members. Despite any past disagreements, state and local politicians said that Papan was among the best on the Peninsula.
“He did so much for this county,” county Supervisor Jerry Hill said. “He served the citizens of San Mateo County for a very long time and he was a very effective legislator.”
“Lou Papan was a dedicated public servant who devoted himself to improving the lives of all Californians,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “From Daly City councilmember to chairman of the state Assembly Rules Committee, Lou’s hard work and distinguished service is an inspiration to all.”
Papan is survived by his daughters, Virginia and Diane Papan; son-in-law Dan Latini; and granddaughter Alexa Papan Latini.