Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The John Kasich who I Know

During my life, I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to work with politicians and participate in policy development related to agriculture.  I have greatly enjoyed doing this, and I like engaging with political leaders to discuss issues that affect the farm community.  I have also had the unique opportunity of working many events that were attended by local political leaders.  No matter what kind of event it might be, I have learned that if you are wearing an apron, some people view you as merely service staff -- and they will say nearly anything in your presence because you are just staff.  At weddings, this meant that I got to witness brides having meltdowns and guests behaving badly.  But at political events, this meant I was privy to discussions that I would not have heard otherwise.  During the years that I was doing a lot of catering work, I was also starting to do a great deal of policy work.  Many of the leaders with whom I would meet to discuss farm issues, were the same individuals to whom I would be serving a drink while catering a political fundraiser.  My standard for judging these politicians came down to how they treated me when I wore an apron: it was easy to recognize Katherine Harrison in her cowboy hat during a farm visit or in a dress & turquoise jewelry while lobbying at the Statehouse . . . But if they still knew me when I was wearing my black server's uniform, and they still took time to speak to me as a person, then I discerned they were a good human being.  Whenever I release the political endorsements of Harrison Farm, you can trust that the politicians I support (no matter their party) are the people who have earned my respect as good human beings.

I recognize that I am in a unique position to share information on a particular candidate during the presidential primaries, and I am writing this post to provide more detail on my interactions with a politician who definitely earned my respect: Governor John Kasich.  Right after John Kasich was elected governor in 2010, he visited the Ohio Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting.  I had the good fortune of serving on Farm Bureau's policy development committee that year, and thus was seated right next to the podium while he gave his address to the delegates.  I was very impressed by his energy & charisma, yet had no idea I would soon get to spend much more time around the Governor & his family.  My initial good impression grew into strong personal respect.

The reality of being a farmer is that it is a job that is hard work, in tough conditions, with little pay.  Farmers do not farm to get rich, they farm because they love what they do.  To keep my own livestock farm going, I have to work off the farm to provide income -- so I can have things like health insurance, a cell phone, and my subscription to the Wall Street Journal.  I began working as a server for a local catering company to bring in extra income.  I ended up finding an amazing work family at a catering company that wholeheartedly supports local farms & local foods.  My organization skills were a good fit to oversee events, and thus I began doing a lot of event supervision.  This is how I began to supervise events at the Governor's Mansion in Bexley, Ohio.  I was never employed by Governor Kasich, thus my observations of him were merely from my role as a supervisor & server for the company that catered several events at the Governor's Mansion.

From the time I first worked an event for Governor Kasich, he was always polite.  I suspect that an energetic leader like Kasich must get used to a constant flow of people around him.  So I was not surprised that our early interactions were short, but pleasant.  The more I worked at the Governor's Mansion (and the more that Governor Kasich became used to me being there), I felt that I was able to establish a certain level of trust with him.  Because he was always kind to me, I wanted to make sure that in my limited role I was able to assist him to the best of my ability.  Admittedly, this meant small things like remembering he liked a cup of coffee after dinner, he appreciated a bottle of water for the road if he had to head out to a meeting, and he liked all the food on his plate to be warm (not a mix of temperatures).  I learned that if Governor Kasich was at the end of his business day, he enjoyed a nice glass of red wine -- but never if he still had more work yet to do.  Attending to even these small things allowed me to feel that in my own way I was helping our state's leader, and he truly repaid me with courtesy & kindness.

I believe that Governor Kasich appreciated that I paid attention to how I could be of help in my role.  With this, I was given the rare opportunity to get to see the political leader of our state in completely relaxed situations.  I saw Governor Kasich interact with his staff and his friends, just being himself -- and seeing the warm & professional people with whom he surrounded himself increased my opinion of him.  I heard him on business calls, I saw him help his daughters with homework & piano practice, and I listened to the prayers he offered before I would serve dinner.  First Lady Karen Kasich earned my deep respect as a lovely, accomplished woman.  I found her to be a caring person, and one who was willing to pitch in to get event work accomplished successfully.  Seeing the partnership between the Kasichs (particularly the way that the Governor supported his wife), cemented my support for the Governor.

John Kasich always treated me with respect & appreciation.  He consistently offered thanks for my service, and encouraged his staff to welcome me in my role.  But more than that, the Governor himself made me feel valued.  In our interactions, I truly felt he cared when he would ask how I was and what was new in my world.  Governor Kasich would tease me about my trait of always being calm, no matter what drama might be swirling around me -- and I liked that he got to know me as a human being, not just as a person in an apron.  I treasure my memories of working events that he & his wife hosted.  I know that I was afforded a rare opportunity to see in action someone who is now a presidential candidate.  

As I have spent more time in the policy arena, I have come to realize that I would rather work with a politician who is a gentleman (even if we disagree on certain issues), than a politician who is not a gentleman (even if I may agree with their ideas).  In this time of bombastic & juvenile behavior that passes for political discourse, I felt it important to share my memories of working for a politician who is a gentleman.  As my friends around this great country consider their primary votes, I wanted to share more about my personal interactions with this candidate.  When I support a politician, it is not because I am issuing a rallying cry for a certain cause or a certain party -- it is because I believe in the human being.  Governor Kasich treated me with respect when I was in professional dress as a farmer delegate to Ohio Farm Bureau's Annual Meeting the first time I met him, and he continued to show professional & personal courtesy when I was the server routinely bringing him coffee.  On behalf of all my farm animals and in memory of the noted political prognosticator Doody the Goat, I am very happy to offer Harrison Farm's endorsement of Governor John Kasich for President!