As a young boy, my interest in current affairs and the influence of politics was sparked by the beginnings of World War II, almost as much as my infatuation with my new Schwinn bicycle. Not sure how much I really understood about all that was going on, but I found it all intriguing.
On into high school and college, my interest continued and I became more and more concerned about the disparity of wealth and poverty. I was a very committed liberal.
Around 1958, I moved with a wife and three infants from New York to Phoenix, Arizona. Had a rough time getting established, but finally caught hold about three years in when I went to work for the Electric League and became active in the Phoenix Jr. Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). This was a large organization of about 500 members, who were very active and respected in the community.
I took part in the Labor Day Fishing Derby, the 4th of July fireworks show at the racetrack, was chairman of the Christmas party for underprivileged children (8,000 pairs of shoes and all kinds of toys and goodies). I was on the Board of Directors and then treasurer. Including the annual rodeo we sponsored and weekly dinner meetings in our own building, we ran on a budget of $500,000 plus a year.
Following a stint in a statewide model legislature, I proposed and became chairman of a state project to hold a model constitutional convention. This came about as the result of a meeting with the governor, who suggested several outdated operational problems in the Arizona Constitution.
The project to produce a model constitutional convention involved working with professors at the two state universities who produced kind of workbook analyzing the current constitution and offering a series of alternatives.
We had about 60 or more delegates from all over the state for a weekend conclave in Phoenix. It was a very successful showcase and led to an ongoing project to lobby for some constitutional changes.
The annual rodeo at the fairgrounds was a major undertaking. The Jaycees built all the chutes and fencing, handled all the ticket sales and contracted for all the livestock. They also produced an extravagant parade to kickoff the program on opening morning.
Part of the Jaycee membership were gung-ho, dedicated rodeo enthusiasts. It was their main reason for being a Jaycee. They went to other rodeos in Calgary and around the state.
Although I participated in the rodeo and was a parade marshal in charge of one of the divisions, in charge of ticket sales and performed several functions over the years, I was not part of the “rodeo group.”
I know this is getting to be a long story, but suffice it to say, I was very active and involved.
Now we were coming up to our annual election and John K was running. Nice guy, had been around a long time but had not really been terribly active.
A number of my friends convinced me I should run. I did and lost. I was not terribly upset. I knew it was a long shot. By the way, John K later became mayor of Phoenix.
The next year I ran again and was seemingly unopposed until late in the game whcn a few of my supporters made some cocky comments which annoyed some people. They convinced Ed W, one of the rodeo group, he needed to run against me. Ed, too, had been around a long time but had never done much of anything—never been a chairman and never been on the board.
Elections were a big thing in the Jaycees. They used the old pull lever voting machines from the county. The results the night of the election were on two machines. I won by a small majority. On the third machine, I got swamped by the rodeo group and lost the election. Ed became president.
I don’t think anyone in Jaycee history had ever run for president and lost twice—besides, being crushed! I realized I was never comfortable making phone calls and buttonholing people, asking them to vote for me. I just hoped people would know my record. In politics, that’s not enough. I was not a very good campaigner.
I realized my strengths were in marketing promotion and direct mail; they were not being the out-front spokesman, campaigner and politician. I thought I could be a good campaign manager. In the next few years I approached two bright, articulate, young men and offered to work with them pro bono to create a political future for them.
They each declined, which turned out to be a good thing. Larry S became an obstinate gadfly, so obsessed with the failure he saw in the FAA that he could focus on nothing else. Mark W, another bright, good-looking lawyer, got involved in an extra-marital affair and some questionable ethical practices with client funds.
It was time for me to take the skills I had and employ them to further my own career and entrepreneurial ambitions. It all worked out for the best.
My career and my business benefited from the Jaycee experiences and I have many fond memories and appreciation for that time in my life.