Who is Phil Anyway?

You look at Phil every time a new page on my web site opens up.  He is the towering hulk raising a defiant fist to the fates while standing high atop the Central Administration Building of the Duluth Schools.  He is my dogged campaign manager and my alter ego. He is Phil.

In the Fall of 1989 I ran for the Duluth School Board for the first time.  I had been a teacher, had a child enrolled in first grade, and was upset about the closing of an "inner city" junior high that I had once taught at. I lost in the primary. In the Winter following the election Phil showed up at my place and commiserated with me. I had no idea how passionate a supporter of mine Phil would become.  He rallied to my defense and made this rather dramatic statement about the state of the Duluth Schools. It got him on the front page of our local paper the Duluth News Tribune.

I'm nothing if not persistent and ran again two years later in 1991.  Phil offered to act as my campaign manager. This time I was exercised about the dropout rate which I discovered had been manipulated so as to minimize its severity. I made my findings public where they were greeted with a mixture of skepticism and indifference. In some ways it was a replay of the previous campaign. When you campaign for the hard luck cases you better be prepared to be met with a shrug of the shoulders.

Phil was crushed by my loss; absolutely disconsolate. The following Winter he moped around my front yard for months.  Claudia tried to cheer him up by making him a great, big, red, elf hat.  It didn't work and some pranksters stole it off his head one night.  He was so apathetic he didn't even try to get it back from them.

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After the hat was returned Phil perked up a little. He helped me write a letter to the editor. We were both still licking our wounds from the election.

Phil had become part of the household by now.  For my birthday my wife Claudia got me a card that the cartoonist Gary Larson had made lampooning poor old Phil. We just had to laugh.  What else was there to do?

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"For crying out loud, Phil....Can't you just
beat your chest like everyone else?"

In 1993 I ran again and predictably Phil was at my side.  In fact he was right on my campaign literature.  You can imagine that such a large, tropical, white ape had become a bit of a celebrity in little old Duluth. We gave it our best shot. This time I made it past the primary. Phil and I were feeling good but it was too good to last. I came in dead last in the general election.   It didn't help my credibility that I had gotten fed up with national politics the year before and run for Congress. Voters are rightly weary of perennial candidates and that was me. Friends, recalling two earlier failed races I'd made in the 70's for the state legislature, started calling me the Harold Stassen of Duluth. It was very distressing.

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I'd already gone past "three times a charm" with no success so by my 4th  school board campaign I was ready to quit if I failed again. I'm glad to say persistence paid off. Its hard to say whether Phil or I was happier on election night.  I had worked hard for myself and for Phil's sake. 

Phil has had four years to rest from the last election and its hard to say whether he will volunteer to help me again.  It doesn't matter.  Phil has more than met the true test of friendship and loyalty.  (Sorry big guy. Sniff, sniff. I didn't mean to tear up like this.) Phil, you're one in a million. Thanks, big guy.