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February 17, 2014

Rivera benefactor rose from projects to Pebble Beach

LAWRENCE — William Perocchi and Daniel Rivera grew up poor in the same city housing project, raised by single parents and, given their impoverished beginnings, facing a life of long odds and limited expectations.

Perocchi went on to top jobs at General Electric and the DoubleTree hotel chain, retiring at 42 in 1990. A few months later, Peter Ueberroth, the former commissioner of Major League Baseball, enticed him back to work organizing a deal to buy Pebble Beach Resorts and its world-famous golf club in California. Today, he’s part owner and CEO.

Rivera was on a different trajectory. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Iraq during the first Gulf War, then went on to a short career in government and a longer one in marketing.

The two met for the first time at a South Broadway restaurant last fall, where over breakfast Perocchi expressed distress over the “dysfunction and divisiveness” he said had overrun his former hometown.

Rivera, running for mayor, laid out his vision for the city.

Perocchi flew back to the West Coast.

But as the election approached, Perocchi, one of the wealthiest men in a community famous for luxury, returned to an indigent city known for corruption and crime to wave signs on street corners and knock on doors for Rivera, who was facing another set of long odds and limited expectations as he took on a charismatic incumbent who had built up an air of invincibility.

Rivera edged William Lantigua by 60 votes of 15,200 cast on Nov. 5. When Lantigua demanded a recount, Perocchi wrote what may be the biggest check ever in Lawrence politics — $26,000 — to hire the team of lawyers an d pay the other expenses that would help Rivera hold on to his microscopic margin through the recount.

Perocchi wrote one check more after the recount, for $5,000, to help with the expenses of Rivera’s inaugural gala on Jan. 4.

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