Unless you’re of a certain age, you may not be familiar with Ed Santos. More likely, you’ve heard of Mike Landers, known to some as “Mayor Mike.” Or, at least, you may have heard the music he’s helped make happen on the Plymouth waterfront since the 1990s.

Through Projects Arts, the nonprofit he created with a small group of motivated artists, Landers brought some electricity to what was a low-wattage music scene. Over the years, the free summer concerts have grown into destination events, attracting impressive crowds, a diverse lineup of musicians, and a line up food trucks. Past performers have ranged from the late Rick Danko of The Band to The Average White Band to Jonathan Edwards to Livingston Taylor to local faves like the Fey Band.  And there’s always a tribute band or three to recreate those earworm hits of yesteryear.

So what’s the link between Santos and Landers? Thanks to the efforts of Michael Gallerani, a former longtime local resident, Plymouth’s select board on Tuesday is expected to announce Landers as the first recipient of the Edward W. Santos Community Service Award. The honor “recognizes individuals for their life of service to Plymouth whether it be a lifetime, or a year.” Both men easily meet those standards.

Santos, who died in 2022 at the age of 92, was known for his many volunteer efforts on behalf of the town he lived in for his entire life.

Gallerani said in an email that the idea to establish the award came to him at Santos’s funeral last November. “In February, I completed the strategic plan and shared it with community leaders seeking their financial support,” he said.  That plan includes eventually creating a “parklet” in honor of Santos somewhere in the downtown/waterfront area. Gallerani said he expects to present that plan to the town in the coming weeks.

“He gave of his time, expertise and resources in order to make Plymouth a better place,” Gallerani wrote of Santos in the announcement of the first annual award. “The list of his service to organizations is not easily recited, and anyone that tries to cover it, invariably, comes up short, it is that extensive.”

That’s no exaggeration. To name just some of the organizations Santos was involved with requires a hefty paragraph. He served on the Jordan Hospital board for many years, and was vice chair of the Philanthropy Board of Beth Israel Deaconess Plymouth. He was chair of Cranberry Hospice, president and Paul Harris Fellow of the Plymouth Rotary Club, president and director of Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, a director for the Plymouth Public Library, director for the Plymouth Boys & Girls Club, chair of Plymouth YMCA, chair of the Town of Plymouth Personnel Board, director of Sacred Heart School, a council member at Plimoth Patuxet Museums, trustee and vice president of Pilgrim Hall Museum, a Plymouth Industrial Park Association director, director and treasurer of the Plymouth Regional Economic Development Foundation, and director and treasurer of the Plymouth County Development Council.

Landers, too, has spent most of his life immersed in the community, and not for personal gain.   

“Michael, much like Ed Santos, spearheaded a much-needed change that contributed greatly to an evolving visitor industry and the reimagining of the historic downtown and waterfront districts,” Gallerani says. “At the time, there was a void that needed to be addressed – Project Arts did just that, and so much more.”

Landers has also served on town committees, the Cultural Committee, the Skate Park Committee, and the Chamber of Commerce Industrial Development, Tourism, and Plymouth Summer Festival committees.

But on Oct. 17, 2022, Landers’ life changed in an instant. He suffered a major stroke at home while working on a Project Arts grant. He was flown to Boston for emergency surgery, but the damage was extensive – Lander was left partially paralyzed. He was unable to speak or even swallow. Since then, he was made remarkable progress on the path to recovery, as friends and concertgoers have rallied around him and his family to raise money to offset the expense of his care and rehabilitation.

The concerts still went on this past summer because he wouldn’t have it any other way, according to those who know him and his unwavering determination. Late last month, a photo posted on his Facebook page sent a strong message. It showed a smiling Landers standing with his sisters on the empty waterfront gazebo stage. There’s little doubt where he’ll be come next summer’s series. Today, however, he’s the main attraction as the first recipient of the Santos community service award.

Landers was selected, Gallerani says, “because he best exemplifies the spirit of Ed Santos and is worthy of standing on Ed’s shoulders as he continues to make Plymouth better.”

Mark Pothier can be reached at mark@plymouthindependent.org.

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