Why I retired

I’d judged for 17 years and that was enough. When I was 30 winning the judgeship was the best thing that ever happened to me. I earned a great wage, had health and disability benefits, was home by six and saw every one of my kids’ ball games. In the 50 or so days before taking the bench, I’d prepared outlines for every court because I thought I should know everything. The first day I took the bench I was so nervous that I read prepared scripts and one of the clerk’s saw my hands shaking as I held the papers. (Sorry, I also know that judges are supposed to be invincible and not get nervous.)

17 years later, the enthusiasm that originally inspired me to run was waning. People think court is like “Law and Order” but district court was more like “Night Court” and there’s a lot of it. We handled thousands of cases each year. I tried to give every person–defendant or victim– a sense that their case mattered, that I would listen and I was always willing to question any assumptions I was making and I was always, always, always trying to do the right thing. Most of the time, the process worked.

The Wiedersteins at CKB
Caption: From left to right, my sister, my dad, and I were at CKB after one of his doctor's appointments.

Then my 83 year old dad got diagnosed with liver cancer. He had been there through everything. He’d taken me to my physical therapy appointments when I blew out my knee in football. Then in my 30s, he once again took me to my doctors’ appointments for my back fusion. I still remember watching him put our kids’ first swing set together as I laid in the grass wishing I could help. He was also there when I swiped the side of the garage with my mom’s station wagon. (I didn’t get my own car until I was 19.) When the oncologist told him his prognosis, he immediately accepted his fate and when asked how he wanted to proceed, answered “I’m not doing any of this.” He was in life and in his death a gentle man.

I wasn’t the same when I came back to work. “Cathy, I can’t do this job anymore like it’s supposed to be done,” I said after dad died. And Cathy said, “ok.” We cobbled my years of service together, bought some time and still took a penalty on my retirement. (Cathy also said to stop going to Starbucks, but I still sneak over for a small coffee.)

Life is so precious and short that I committed to spend whatever time I have left toward creative, meaningful and impactful pursuits.

Why I’m Running

The expectation is that I’m supposed to have a notebook filled with these nuanced, public policy points. That notebook doesn’t exist–yet. One reason it doesn’t exist is that Republicans have only been in control of the legislature for one year. While there were some controversial topics that they addressed and will address, there’s no need to mention them for the moment. The second reason that the notebook doesn’t exist is that I’m only “exploring” a potential run for state representative.

I’m exploring a run because of the loss of civility in modern politics. In the more sensationalist news sources like 24 hour cable news, they are normalizing confrontation, extremism, violence, divisiveness and rudeness in favor of ratings. I don’t watch cable news and haven’t since the Gulf War. For fun, you might imagine how a trip to the local grocery store might go if you dealt with your casual encounters as the hosts of the cable television shows interact with their guests. You’d likely end up in a fist fight in the first aisle.

While our democracy is strong enough to withstand it, civility should remain at the forefront of our political dialog. Media coverage shouldn’t be dominated by the insult of the day, but by the instances of compromise and understanding of well intentioned people in both parties. Glory shouldn’t be bestowed on those who refuse to show up at the negotiating table, but on those who find compromise in the intricacies of a 400 page bill.

That’s why I’m exploring a run: to prove that a campaign can be civil while disagreeing with your opponent. And the state representative’s job is–when done right–creative, meaningful and impactful.

So Let’s Start the Campaign Correctly

So let’s start this potential campaign correctly: I admire and respect Robby Mills. He and I, at one time, were two of the youngest office holders in Henderson; we’ve knocked on the same doors; we’ve listened to many of the same complaints and we’ve made decisions that upset people. And a bunch of the “old timers” questioned how long we’d survive in politics. (We’re both still here–Robby more so than me!)

Democracy has lots of people with different ideas on how government should work. Striking the right balance is a challenge. But let me also add that Robby and I have two very different visions on the role of government. For sure, that’ll become evident as the campaign progresses, but it’s important to start this potential campaign right.

I’m looking for your support in 2018; however, my campaign could be a bad match for you. I intend to deal with Robby Mills, his family, and his supporters with kindness and respect and my expectation is that anyone who would support me would do the same. It’s how you remember a father, it’s how you lead an honorable life.

And if you can’t be kind and respectful, then I don’t want your support. How’s that for the start of a campaign?

;)

Rob