As a child, Larry Alexander was taught to not vote for himself when running for an elected position, so he cast a ballot for his opponent during elections for president of his sixth-grade class. He lost by one vote.
“He always voted for himself after that,” said his wife, Mary Alice.
Mr. Alexander went on to serve as a state representative from the Eighth Essex District for more than a decade, was a chief sponsor of the state’s bottle bill, and taught legislative ethics.
“His passions were honesty in government, and environment and energy policy,” said Michael Barrett, who served in the state Legislature and was elected this month to the state Senate from the Third Middlesex District. “He was ahead of his time in both respects.”
Mr. Alexander died of complications related to a blood disorder Nov. 6 in Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He was 62 and had lived in Marblehead for more than 35 years.
“He was pretty much born a politician,” his wife said. “He grew up in a family that had an intense interest in current affairs, politics, news, and world events.”
Born in Gardner, Lawrence R. Alexander graduated in 1968 from The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn.
Four years later he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale University, where he studied writing with journalist John Hersey. In 1975, he graduated from Boston University School of Law.
Halfway through law school, Mr. Alexander met Mary Alice Mark. They married in 1977.
A Democrat, Mr. Alexander began his political career during the spring of his senior year at Yale when he was elected to Swampscott Town Meeting in 1972. He held the position through law school.
“He saw no reason to go for something unless you went all out for it,” his wife said.
Upon graduating from law school, he moved to Marblehead and worked for three years as a trial attorney for the Boston firm Warner & Stackpole. While working there, Mr. Alexander was elected to the Marblehead Planning Board, and as chairman authored a harborfront zoning law.
During the Blizzard of 1978, Mr. Alexander began his campaign for state representative from the Eighth Essex District, which includes Marblehead, Swampscott, and part of Lynn.
“He thought, ‘Well, I can’t go to work anyway, so I’m just going to start my campaign,’ ” his wife said.
After he was elected, she said, Mr. Alexander resigned as a trial attorney from Warner & Stackpole “because he wanted to serve his constituents full time and give them everything he had.”
In 1985, Mr. Alexander was appointed to serve as House chairman of the Joint Committee on Energy. He held the position until he stepped down from the Legislature in 1990.
He often said his greatest accomplishment as a state representative was helping lead the victorious effort to pass the bottle bill, his wife said.
“The overriding driving force for him was that he was committed to public service,” she said, “because he wanted to make the world a better place and he believed even one individual could make a difference.”
He also helped craft a law that called for prohibiting politicians from pocketing leftover campaign funds for their personal use.
“My husband was incredibly ethical and he completely turned around this notion that all politicians are crooks,” his wife said.
Barrett said that Mr. Alexander “had the guts to do something about it. You couldn’t be a wimp if you’re going to look an older colleague in the eye easing his hands out of the cash drawer.”
In addition, Mr. Alexander worked on behalf of consumers by sponsoring the state’s appliance efficiency law.
In 1990, Governor Michael S. Dukakis appointed him to serve as a commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.
For two years, Mr. Alexander was a trial attorney at Perkins, Smith & Cohen in Boston. Mr. Alexander also worked for or was a leader with organizations such as the Consortium for Energy Efficiency and Environmental Futures, and he was a senior legislative strategist for the association of state public interest research groups.
A guest lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a part-time lecturer at Yale University and Tufts University, Mr. Alexander taught undergraduate courses on ethical dilemmas faced by lawmakers.
“He was very interested in ethical and legislative dilemmas and how to figure out the right thing to do,” his wife said.
She added that he “taught the specific topic because he wanted to get his students to understand that not everything is black and white. Everything is gray. He wanted to re-explore and re-debate issues again to help him continue to think it through.”
Mr. Alexander was honored with legislative achievement awards from the Massachusetts Audubon Society and Massachusetts Common Cause, which also presented him with a public service award.
“He cared so much about being in a position that could change policy,” said his brother, Dr. Paul Alexander of Providence. “It wasn’t about him. It was about what was possible to achieve as the legislator.”
A service has been held for Mr. Alexander, who in addition to his wife and brother leaves a daughter, Katie of Beverly, and a son, David of Seattle.
“He saw the best in a person so he was easy to interact with. He wasn’t judgmental,” his brother said. “He was just so good-natured it was hard not to feel comfortable in his presence.
Representative Lori Ehrlich said Mr. Alexander immediately offered assistance in 2007 when she announced she would seek the Eighth Essex District seat he once held.
“He set the bar high as a legislator in that he was always thoughtful and caring about the impact of policy on people he represented,” she said.
Michele Richinick can be reached at mrichinick