Late 1984, Janice and I returned from a two-year sabbatical in Hawaii and Gustavus, almost broke, and pregnant. But then, it was my great good fortune that Don added me to his staff for 1985-1987 when he was Majority Leader. It was a talented staff, including Johnny Ellis, Nancy Groszek and Bonnie Gruening. Betty was also quietly present to make sure business was taken care of on issues of particular interest. Those two years were a master’s class in the legislative process.
To my double good fortune, Don didn’t fire me on at least two occasions when he would have perfectly within his rights to do so. Kind and forgiving man!
It was a joy and honor to work for Don. He was passionately engaged in his work. Being Majority Leader was a huge and demanding responsibility. The span of his legislative and budgetary interests was wide and deep, and he infused his interests with concern for others and protections for the vulnerable.
Legislative sessions nearly always turned into weeks of late-night work, frazzled nerves, short tempers and numerous anxieties driven by worries over the fate of bills and budget items of particular interest. It was sometimes dramatic and rightly so. I loved it. Don, I thank you forever for letting me be a part of that work.
In spite of the stress and anxieties, here are a few particularly entertaining vignettes that remain burned in my mind:
A well-coiffed Democratic Senator resplendent in pin-striped three-piece suit, entered Don’s outer office, gazed disapprovingly upon the British Labor party posters on the walls, Bonnie in her bare feet, and Bonnie’s baby Drew in his diapers in his playpen on the floor, and says; “Expletive!…. Next it will be the pigs and the chickens!”
Thank you, Don for enriching our lives.
And thank you, Betty for your many, many kindnesses. Our hearts are with you.