AUGUSTA – Dan Gwadosky, whose long career in public service included two years as speaker of the Maine House and eight years as secretary of state, died Wednesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.

Gwadosky, a Democrat, was a Fairfield native who was first elected to the House in 1978, when he was 23. When he was 39, he took over as speaker when John Martin stepped down after holding the post for nearly 20 years.

Gwadosky was speaker from 1994 to 1996.

“He stepped in and rallied everyone together and kept us focused on what we needed to do,” said Libby Mitchell, who followed Gwadosky as House speaker and later served as Senate president. “Everybody will remember him for his unbelievable wit.”

While he was House majority leader, Gwadosky told the Waterville Morning Sentinel that he loved being a legislator, even though it sometimes meant 16-hour workdays. He served 18 years in the House.

“It’s exciting, exhilarating, frustrating, not only day to day, but hour to hour,” he said in an interview in 1991.

After leaving the Legislature, Gwadosky was chosen as secretary of state, a post he held from 1997 until 2005. Dale McCormick, a former Democratic lawmaker who was state treasurer while Gwadosky was secretary of state, said it was “very, very sad news to lose a public servant like Dan.”

“He was a real leader in bringing Maine government into the digital age,” she said. “You could just tell every day serving the people of Maine was a good day for him.”

In 2005, Gwadosky was appointed director of the state Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, a position he held until his death Wednesday morning.

In a written statement, former Gov. John Baldacci praised Gwadosky for his “tremendous contribution to the state of Maine through a long career in public service.”

“Dan was also a terrific family man and active in his community as a coach and volunteer,” Baldacci said.

In 2001, Gwadosky scuttled a run for Congress, saying he preferred to spend more time with his family. Most recently, the family lived in Augusta.

“He was a good guy, a great friend and very studious,” said Kevin Violette, a classmate of Gwadosky’s at Lawrence High School in Fairfield. “Here was a guy who dedicated everything to local and state government. We were his constituents, his friends and his neighbors. If we all give back, we can be a little bit like Dan.”

Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, called Gwadosky a “friend, former colleague and seat mate” who was a “dedicated public servant.”

“Dan worked diligently for Maine citizens while courageously battling for his life,” Hobbins said in a joint release from House and Senate Democrats. “Today, Maine has lost a great public servant.”

The current secretary of state, Republican Charlie Summers, also remembered Gwadosky for his years of service.

“His loss will be deeply felt by all those benefactors of his service,” Summers said in a prepared statement. “I join all the citizens of Maine in extending my deepest sympathies to his wife, Cheryl, and children, Joshua and Jessica.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, recalled serving with Gwadosky in the Legislature.

“I always admired his dedication to those he served and his willingness to give up so much of himself to public service,” Michaud said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and her husband, former Gov. John McKernan, released a joint statement about Gwadosky’s death. Gwadosky was House speaker during McKernan’s final year as governor.

“We are profoundly saddened to learn of the passing of Dan Gwadosky, who was truly an outstanding leader in Fairfield and in Maine,” the statement said. “A devoted public servant who fought on behalf of his constituents, Dan time and time again exemplified the unparalleled work ethic and can-do spirit that are the hallmarks of our great state.”

Funeral arrangements have not yet been released. 

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Beth Staples contributed to this report. 

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

scover@mainetoday.com