Monday, March 25, 2013

Endorsing Rich Spindler for School Board

My second endorsement for school board - and these are in no particular order! - is my good friend Rich Spindler.

I've known Rich for many years, from out and around Eau Claire's vibrant social scene. He's one of those people that you know through friends of friends - you're not exactly sure how you met, but you recognize each other everywhere. The movies, the farmers' market, concerts in the park, holiday parades - Rich has been here pretty much since I started paying attention. Over the course of years, you start talking to each other. You talk about the weather, or the game, or the presidential race.

Rich and I share several interests, including snowshoeing, camping in the Boundary Waters, and quite a bit on the political side. I have a lot of friends who are interested in politics - if you and I hang out together it's going to go into politics at some point. But my sense is that Rich is not simply interested in politics for politics' sake.

I have friends in several camps. There are friends who are angry, and when they see injustice, they rant. They can go all night. And hey, I love to rant. Don't get me wrong - I love reading, writing, and listening to a good rant. Give me your best melt. That's just what happens when those friends and I get together.

I don't always agree with my ranting friends either. Two ranters with opposing viewpoints can get into some great arguments. But you never really get anywhere. If you do, it's on some trivial point, and you're tired of disagreeing. You eventually let bygones be bygones and change the subject.

Rich is not a ranter, at all. There's a basic pragmatism to his approach. Rich will agree (or disagree) with a position, but unlike the ranter, he comes at it with a healthy hesitation. It's not a hesitation of doubt. Rich has conviction, in spades. It's a hesitation borne in Midwestern practicality. He knows what to needs to be done, but he also looks for consensus. If he's going to weigh the impact of a decision, he knows he has a responsibility to maintain empathy with every party being affected.

Rich reminds me of my uncle. If the truck is stuck, and we need to improvise, my uncle will say, "I s'pose a guy could..." and then insert a practical and expedient solution. He says it with a hesitation, because this is a time where healthy debate matters. If you try something that's going to take a lot of hard work, it's a good idea to talk it through so you're all relatively sure about it. Because a guy can be wrong sometimes. He might not think it all out by himself. He wants to get the truck out of the ditch, just like you. He's not pretending he's always got the answer, but this time he thinks he knows. To be safe, he checks things out first, before acting.

Rich Spindler embodies this. I trust Rich's drive. It's not politics on a national scale, although I would guess he has opinions. This is going to be grunt work, on the local scale. What can he do, in his position, to help the school district? Rich is really into the details on policy side. Watching the school board forum was pretty amazing. He's a geek about this, like I'm a geek about the '91 Twins team. I'm not going to fight someone as pragmatic as Rich, with this level of drive, if he wants to get going.  He's willing to get after it, for the betterment of the school district. I trust his  stewardship, his integrity, his practicality, and his commitment.  That's why I'm voting for Rich Spindler on April 2nd: so we can get a guy after it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Endorsing Chue Xiong for School Board

I've had the pleasure of getting to know several excellent candidates for Eau Claire's local races. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be writing about a few of those that really stick out to me. I'm endorsing Chue Xiong for Eau Claire's School Board race.

Last week, Chue Xiong and I chatted across a kitchen table over a beer, Wisconsin-style, in a long and winding conversation. We drifted everywhere, it seems....from his early childhood experience in a Thai refugee camp, to his time in high school, to the time he served in Iraq as a Marine.

Chue moved to America at age 9 from a Thai refugee camp, not knowing a word of English. He was born into poverty, and has a clear identification with the poor in our community. Chue joined the Marines out of high school to serve his country, and volunteered for combat on his second assignment. At age 22 he was leading 72 Marines in a combat theatre, making difficult decisions in times of high stress. He now serves professionally as a cultural liaison between the Hmong community and area schools and businesses.

Chue embodies everything we hope America can be for everyone. Over the course of our conversation, he demonstrated broad empathy, patience, humility, and a youthful exuberance for bringing people together to solve problems. There are no cookie-cutter solutions available for every community - if there were, we wouldn't need to elect anyone to school board at all. We need people who can bring an open mind, a commitment to the community, and a willingness to learn from past mistakes. Chue brings all of these things.  I'll be voting for Chue Xiong on April 2nd to help ensure a well-rounded education for all of our students, for the benefit of our entire community.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Endorsements Coming for Local Races

It's been a long time!

An update, and why I didn't post much in the past year:

A year ago this morning I sat in a meeting that resulted in the loss of my job. While it wasn't a surprise, it was the end of ten years of employment at the same place. I still treasure my time there, the people, and the things we accomplished. I landed on my feet - I had an interview a week later, and a job offer in three weeks - but the interim period was a scary, emotional time. Thankfully, the friends I've made in this community lifted me up at the very time I needed help. It's impossible to repay everyone, but the beauty of my friends in that moment was their genuine generosity. Those that helped me the most honestly did it out of love, with no expectation of an equivalent return. My commitment to them is a commitment to live a life of equivalent generosity and love for my community of friends.

In the intervening period between jobs, I booked gigs all summer with my band in order to make ends meet. I was blessed with a busy summer, great experiences in local watering holes, and a renewed appreciation for the working class in rural Wisconsin. Yes, most people still love to hear Mustang Sally on a Friday, and no, I really don't mind playing it either. My musicianship probably improved somewhere in there, but like all things, I realized just how much is controlled from within you - how well I played on a given night, how we interacted with the patrons, and how much I enjoyed myself were all up to me and my friends in the band.

Also, if I'm being honest, the results of the recall disappointed me. I met a lot of friends, and yes, we worked hard, but I think I became insular. It's fine to stick with your political group when you've got the numbers on your side. When you don't, you've got to change strategies, or you're going to lose. I really didn't think we'd lose. The good thing is, in November, I actually felt a sense of familiarity on the national level with the Karl Roves. He didn't think he'd lose either, and there he was. Because, like me, he only spoke with people who agreed with him, with no clue about how the other half of the electorate felt, or what they wanted.

Finally, the best news of all: My wife is due with a baby girl in May. We're really excited. We've even been doing the nesting thing, complete with a new house. We moved to the place we looked at for eight years, right across the street. Right now it's paradise, and both of us are overjoyed thinking about the new addition to the family. We're deciding what songs to sing to her and where the playhouse is going to be in the back yard. Our weekends are full with baby showers, the final gigs with the band before the big change, and the preparation of a new bathroom downstairs.

Anyway...enough about me! 

In the coming weeks I'll be using this blog to endorse some candidates for local races. This isn't as official as a newspaper endorsement. These are friends of mine I've met over the years, or friends of friends, or community members that I know. It's really what I love most about local politics - beyond views on the national level, you want people who can think with a level head, who will make tough decisions based on the information available to them. I want people I can trust with my kids' education, or the tax levies, or the new projects in Eau Claire. I meet with one candidate tonight, and I've already met with several others. Expect to see base-level stories about trust, character, and shared philosophy.

Stay tuned!