Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The State of Power

There is a difference between the power of the state and the state of the power. And, something to be said about state politics. Some folks think the political power is in the office but a true politician takes the power with him, long after the office. The Speaker was one of those. By the time I came to work for the firm, he was in his later years, but was still a legend in his own time. The length of his influence was such that I had studied about him and his cronies in my state history class in 7th grade.

So to work in his firm was an unique experience. That he was part of our state's history was not lost on me. But he was in his own world. Oh, it wasn't that he was mentally infirm. He was all there, just frustrated that his physical self was slower than his mental self. Still, he was a bit of the past, left over, but not overlooked. He always wore a hat. No one had worn a hat since the Kennedy administration, but the Speaker did. And, he had a driver - an older black man, always dressed in a suit, who sat outside the Speaker's door, reading his paper on the ready should his boss need to go anywhere.The Speaker's office was the first you came to when you entered the firm. Walter's was 2nd, which gave you an idea of Walter's seniority with the firm.

Often I would be called into the Speaker's office to assist with some legal matter since I was one of the only legitimate paralegals in the firm. (The others were all assigned to the asbestosis cases and, therefore, as far as the Speaker was concerned, they didn't exist. (See June 14, 2010)) I always found him to be polite and very business like, but not very personable. I doubt he ever learned my name the entire time I worked there.

Every day, there would be a parade of sharply dressed dignitaries in and out to see the Speaker. Given that the state capitol was a good 70 miles away, they obviously thought it important enough to travel to see him. The combination of the dapper political types, Walter's red neck faithful, and the wheezing asbestos plaintiffs, all waiting their turn, made for an odd sight in the reception area.

One day, I commented to my father that I had met the football coach from the University of New Mexico in our office. He just smiled and said
"Hot Damn! You know what that means." I didn't have a clue. "That means he going to be the University's new football coach.There is only one reason he would be in your office and that would be to get the Speaker's blessing" "I still don't get it." "No decision is made at the University without the Speaker's final say." "But he's been out of office for years."
"But, not out of power."

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