I like the challenge of trying to turn everyday experiences into blogs. Earlier this week I took a friend named Ross Hunter to lunch, someone I met at least ten years ago before he became well-known. He treated me to lunch last summer to celebrate my retirement. This year I picked up the tab, because I figured he had had a stressful year. As the State Representative for the district where I live and the Chair of the House of Representatives Budget Committee, in the midst of our ongoing economic crisis he had to bring together members of both parties to craft a budget that would garner enough votes to be approved. The budget spread a lot of pain around, but still managed to preserve some services for the poor and disabled. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
I told Ross, shamelessly, that I wanted to get a blog out of this lunch and pulled out my notepad, as he continued to talk about the state budget. I told him I didn’t blog about budgets. He suggested as an alternative that in the near future he could email me some policy information, at which point I reminded him that I didn’t write about policy either. “Then I’m boring,” he responded. That’s when I decided to write a profile about him, because in truth he is anything but boring.
I told him I had just read a comment about him in a recent publication of the Washington State School Retirees’ Association. The article wrapped up the 2011 Legislative session with lists of winners and losers based on the outcome of the session. Ross was named a winner, “who turned out to be as smart about the budget as he said he was.” “You have to have an ego to do this job,” he said, howling about the quote, “but you also have to be able to laugh at yourself. I’d love to have a [David] Horsey cartoon about me.”
Ross and I first met while volunteering to help run a school-funding election campaign. As a retired high-tech engineer and manager he volunteered to create and administer a database for the campaign, as well as take part in election strategy sessions. By the time we had won the school election, he was talking about getting involved in another election: his own. “Through this campaign I’ve learned how crazy school funding is in this state and I want to do something about it,” he said at the time.
True to his word, he ran in the next state election and won. His ego is part of his reputation. In some people this can be very off-putting, but in him it’s not. He’s direct and honest and he is able to accept these qualities in others. I’ve heard it said that he’s not a good listener, but he listened to me rattle on and on about my blog, the book I’m trying to write, something I had read in the morning paper, and people we both know, without checking his watch, interrupting, or changing the subject. I don’t know what more you could ask from a listener. It’s true that Ross knows he’s smart and may drop a hint to this effect from time to time. Who cares? I’d rather have someone working for me in our state government who is smart and knows it than someone who is not, but doesn’t know it.
I asked him if he thought he might run for a national office some day. “I haven’t decided. I truly have angst over the inaction in Washington DC over the budget and the debt limit. I also want to stay married.” “But your kids will be gone before long, so it shouldn’t be such a problem,” I argued. “Like I said before, I want to stay married.”
What’s not to like about a guy who puts family first, understands more than most about the details of state finance, and can be believed when he speaks? Even though his favorite topics can sometimes be boring.