I was asked recently at a Democratic fundraising dinner why it was that I left the Republican Party and began voting Democrat. I took a moment to gather my thoughts and began:
I was VP or CEO in half a dozen firms from 1987-2014, nearly 30 years, most of which I spent directing scores of workers in the steel fabricating industry. Prior to this I worked for 20 years in data processing sales and as a staff person in telecommunications. During those earliest years I hardly knew what the framework of our government amounted to – no great credit to the civics courses I know I, at least, attended! My life, as far as I was aware, was in the hands of our government, regardless of the political affiliation, and we just had to endure it; administrations and policies come and go. But, leaving these areas of employment as essentially a “worker” to become a manager shouldering bottom-line responsibilities changed everything. Now I had to be aware of any and every aspect of our existence that might impact productivity and, most importantly, profitability. Those laws and regulations that someone else had heretofore had to worry about were now clearly in the middle of my desk. And we know where the buck stops!
I had the chance now to make my mark. I studied everyone successful in manufacturing of any kind. I wanted to think like them, manage like them, be successful like them and I was prepared to do whatever it required. I had already unconsciously sold my soul to the devil. I would proclaim for the first time in my life that I was a specific party patriot, a Republican. I was a member of all the business organizations, nationally and locally, from the Mississippi Manufacturers Association to the National Association of Manufacturers and National Federation of Independent Businesses, all strong Republican supporters. The owners of the closely held firms I managed were all Republicans as well. I even supported the NRA. I was all in! I did not broadcast my political leanings at the plants or to staff persons, but they would have had to be blind and deaf to have not known. If a law, policy or regulation supported our business we were for it. Short shrift was given to the employees, families and neighbors that were doing without to finance big business at our company and throughout the country. All the areas we are concerned about today like healthcare, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, trade, education and housing were a concern then as well and seldom addressed by the Republican administrations I was pledged to.
I am ashamed to say that it took me well into my third management position to realize that if this work meant I had to navigate against my own moral compass I had to do something else. Clinton, a Democrat, was into his second term and having his problems by then. But I had seen enough to realize the Right was Wrong and my political reformation was well underway. After three years of GW I was through with the Republican Party and with manufacturing management as well. I spent my last 11 years working for the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi as Executive Director of its camp and conference center. A more liberal environment but still in Mississippi. The crowning blow to my conservative leanings was yet to come.
I retired the last day of 2013 and moved to Boston, Mass on January the 2nd, 2014. We would stay there for two years assisting with our young granddaughter. We lived in the center of Cambridge, halfway between MIT and Harvard. It was, as our oldest would say, “when Dad got his Liberal Enema!” Everything about that trip told me I was a Democrat. No more discussions. We also knew we couldn’t return to either Alabama or Mississippi once we really did retire. Raleigh and NC were where we decided to move, still Southern but a great deal more progressive than the Deep South. Home is where the heart is and here we will stay.