Mike Bishop Was Born to Run

Dome Magazine, 3/16/09

In 2004, a letter from a precocious child put Mike Bishop’s life into focus.

The son of former state Senator Donald Bishop was a busy senator himself, the self-described “techie of the caucus,” serving on the Judiciary and Banking and Financial Institutions committees in his first term. Before that, the Rochester Republican had spent two terms in the House and had been an assistant majority floor leader. Life with his young family was a balancing act, and yet Bishop still managed to squeeze in time as a senior attorney with Simon, Galasso & Franz and as president of Freedom Realty.

But the workaholic — who’s been known to sneak in workouts at 3 a.m. — somehow found time to slit open an envelope from Roy Kaiser, his former principal at St. John Lutheran School in Rochester.

Bishop suddenly remembered an old eighth grade assignment — writing a letter to himself as an adult, which the principal promised to mail back in 10 years. It ended up taking more than 20, but Dr. Kaiser was a man of his word.

The first lines were a doozy: “Dear Senator: How’s the wife and kids? I know you live nearby.”
Staring yourself in the face can be an odd thing.

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Bill Schuette Yearns to be Back on Duty: Former Congressman, State Senator and Judge Vies to Be State’s Top Cop

Dome Magazine, 5/16/09

It was November 1989, and boyish Congressman Bill Schuette was supposed to be planning for the race of his life. Instead, the 34-year-old Michigander took a three-day detour to meet with freedom fighters and scoop up a piece of the Berlin Wall.

He’d been in a bull session with consultants about his quest to knock off two-term U.S. Sen. Carl Levin when he flipped on the news. Revolution was brewing in East Berlin and something told him that he had to be there.

 “I was thinking about (Ronald) Reagan,” recalls Schuette. “I was part of that Reagan Revolution, you see. And he had said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.’ And Gorbachev didn’t, but the Germans did.”

He didn’t end up winning that race in 1990. In fact, his 16-point loss was the only one of his career. But for the Midland Republican, the trip to Germany was the ultimate confirmation that a strong national defense combined with tax cuts and very limited government not only worked, but bred freedom around the world. It’s the same philosophy that guides Schuette 21 years later, as he smiles at the slab of stone adorning his downtown Lansing law office.

He’s gearing up for another election, this time for state attorney general in 2010. Now 55, Schuette still fits the part of the handsome, well-heeled politician ubiquitous in movies, with his wavy brown hair, placid blue eyes, easy grin and pithy taglines ("As a judge, I know the difference between the bad guys and the good guys.").

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Joe Schwarz’s Year of Living Dangerously

Dome Magazine, 3/16/10

The year was 1965 and all hell was breaking loose in Jakarta. On September 30, six senior Army generals were rounded up and executed in an attempted communist coup in the poverty-ravaged nation. The ensuing battle for Indonesia’s heart and soul over the next few years would eventually claim a half-million lives and give rise to a new president.

This was the new normal for a 28-year-old doctor-turned-assistant naval attaché from Battle Creek, Michigan. Nearly 45 years later, Joe Schwarz still can’t talk about what he did to help stop the country from collapsing, although he is a fan of the Mel Gibson film about that era, The Year of Living Dangerously (When watching it with his daughter, Brennan, years ago, he told her, “That was your mother and me.”)

“A lot of other people — Americans, the British, Australians — wanted to help the good guy,” he simply says, “and in this case, it was [General] Suharto and the loyal Indonesian military.”

Schwarz would soon come face-to-face with the man who was preparing to take over as Indonesia’s new leader. As the violence was winding down in 1966, he was summoned for a new mission: teaching English to Suharto. Schwarz remembers following him around a big white table in the entranceway of his house, drilling him on basic phrases like “good morning” (“Just the simplest ways to ingratiate yourself in English, because he didn’t speak a word,” he says).

“I was chosen, not because I was the world’s greatest English teacher, but because I was the most inoffensive American — very junior person who couldn’t offend anybody,” Schwarz adds.

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Virg Bernero: High-Energy Mayor Running Mile a Minute

Dome Magazine, 7/16/10

Sundays weren’t exactly the day of rest in the Bernero household.

Virginia’s tomato sauce would be bubbling on the stove as her five kids — Vickie, Tina, Victor, Vince and Virgil — scampered throughout their four-bedroom Pontiac home. Soon they’d be joined by 20 or 30 of their closest relatives for dinner.

“My family — it was a loud Italian family,” laughs Virg Bernero, still known as “Virgil” to those closest to him. “…My mother was the loudest voice. She was the disciplinarian. My father was quiet — a man of few words. I had to fight to be heard at the table.”

It was there that the youngest of the brood tasted politics for the first time. Most of the clan voted Democratic (a picture of Soapy Williams hung in Felice Quality Market, his grandfather’s store) and his dad, Giulio, was a proud UAW worker.

“After dinner, when the dessert and coffee and the Italian cookies came out, the day would really pick up,” Bernero recalls. “You’d have uncles, aunts, godfathers, godparents. And the kids would go out to play sometimes, but I would often stay right at the table.

“First I would listen and then I would get in on it. They would debate the issues of the day; they’d debate everything. Most of these were immigrants, people who came to this country for a better life. They were proud Italians, but they were proud Americans, who chose to come here and they loved this country. But they’d have vociferous debates. And I kind of grew up in that.”

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Mike Cox: Street Fighter Stirs Up Contest for State CEO

Dome Magazine, 5/16/10

As World War I engulfed Europe, another battle was brewing in Britain. On Easter Monday, 1916, the Irish Republican Brotherhood stormed through several buildings in Dublin.

After more than a century of British rule, Irish nationals rebelled against fighting another war for the empire and clamored for their independence. And while the British army quashed the weeklong Easter Uprising, as Yeats wrote, a “terrible beauty [was] born.” The Brotherhood begat the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which won the ensuing bloody war of independence in 1922, although the British held onto Northern Ireland.

The Easter Uprising claimed 434 souls and authorities rounded up more than 3,500 suspects, including a young Anthony McGuane from County Clare. The IRB member would be arrested again later on in the conflict, serving a total of four years in prison.

Ninety-four years later, McGuane’s grandson is a veteran of a more civilized form of politics. But Mike Cox — Michigan’s first Republican attorney general in 48 years — would be the first to tell you some of that Irish Brotherhood brawling spirit courses through his veins.

That’s the reason why many believe he’ll be the state’s next governor.

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Mike Bouchard Runs as Straight-Shooting Voice of Experience

Dome Magazine, 3/16/10

Hurricane Katrina was slamming into New Orleans, leaving most of the coastal city underwater. The Category 5 hurricane would eventually claim the lives of 1,836 souls, making it the deadliest storm in eight decades.

It was August 29, 2005, and the raspy voice on the other end of the line belonged to Jefferson County Parish Sheriff Henry Lee. They had no communication system or bullets and desperately needed help. As the director of government affairs for the Major County Sheriff’s Association, Mike Bouchard was the man to call.

“And then his undersheriff called and he was actually crying,” the Oakland County sheriff recalls. “They couldn’t get any help out of the federal government, his deputies hadn’t slept in 48 hours, a lot of them didn’t know if their own families were alive — but they were still on the job.

“I called every federal agency I could to get approval. So they ran us around the circle like that for 24 hours. And I just said, ‘forget it.’”

That’s when Bouchard phoned three other large sheriff’s departments in Georgia, Alabama and Florida to form one of the first caravans with his Oakland County team. They headed down immediately and Bouchard surveyed the damage via helicopter. Then deputies started 12-hour shifts, setting up their own self-contained compound just outside the city in the parking lot of a shuttered restaurant.

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Pete Hoekstra: Getting Down to Business in 2010 Race for Governor

Dome Magazine, 11/16/09

When U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flicked off the lights in Congress last summer instead of taking up the GOP’s offshore drilling legislation, a Twitter star was born.

Pete Hoekstra, the Republican congressman from Holland best known as the party’s point man on counterterrorism, might have seemed an unlikely tweeter. But the former furniture executive also is known for his brevity, so the 140-character-or-less format proved a good fit. And while Hoekstra was huddled in the darkened chambers with GOP lawmakers, including Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton), he kept the outside world abreast of their “Drill, baby, drill” protest.

“We found it to be an effective way to communicate,” smiles Hoekstra, who’s running for governor next year.

Since July 2008 he’s averaged more than one tweet a day, with 8,704 (and counting) followers. While that doesn’t begin to approach the territory of Twitter top dog/actor Ashton Kutcher (3,978,133 followers) or congressional king John McCain (1,576,416), Hoekstra’s missives certainly have courted more controversy.

On his 11th trip to Iraq, in February, he tweeted details from the itinerary, such as being in the green zone in Baghdad, which Democrats claimed revealed classified information and jeopardized members’ safety. The flap caused the Pentagon to announce it will review congressional communications from war zones.

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Alma Wheeler Smith: Fighting for Change from Within

Dome Magazine, 11/16/09

Shortly before more than 84,000 breathless supporters invaded Invesco Field to hear Barack Obama’s historic acceptance speech at last August’s Democratic National Convention, the 2010 Michigan governor’s race was already declared over.

“I went into a caucus room and [Lieutenant Governor] John Cherry preceded me,” recalls Representative Alma Wheeler Smith. “And he was introduced as the next governor of the state of Michigan. And when it was my turn, I said, ‘Well, now I know how Barack Obama felt when he entered a room and Hillary Clinton was the presumptive presidential candidate.’”

Indeed, most of the pundit class does consider the gubernatorial contest to be a foregone conclusion on the Democratic side, even though several candidates have expressed interest, including Smith, Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee, former Rep. John Freeman and Michigan State University Trustee George Perles. The only drama seems to be whether House Speaker Andy Dillon jumps into the fray.

For Smith, it’s an odd feeling of déjà vu. When the now 67-year-old Salem Township Democrat first ran for governor in 2002, she was overshadowed by then-Attorney General Jennifer Granholm, who was hailed for fighting to break the glass ceiling at the governor’s office. Little attention was paid to Smith, who would have not only busted that barrier but become the Great Lake State’s first African-American chief executive as well. Poor fundraising forced Smith to join forces with then-U.S. Rep. David Bonior as his running mate.

“She was a wonderful partner, very thoughtful about the issues,” he says. “She had the ability to reach out to so many communities — environmentalists, women, the African-American community, the Latino community.”

But the pair finished a distant second in the primary.

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The Doctor Makes It Clear He’s Definitely In

Dome Magazine, 2/16/09

Sen. Tom George could become the first Michigan governor not to have an undergraduate diploma to hang on his wall since Luren Dickenson in 1939. But the Kalamazoo Republican would still need a place in his office for his stethoscope and scrubs.

Yes, if elected in 2010, George, 52, would be the first physician to occupy the governor’s mansion.

How this happened is a little twist of fate. The year was 1978 and George couldn’t wait to go to medical school. So the University of Michigan junior didn’t.

“I read the catalogue for (U of M’s) medical school. It said you needed 90 undergraduate credits — it didn’t say you needed a degree,” he says. “So I applied.” “It used to be common at the turn of the century,” he adds.

He realized saving an extra year of tuition and expenses would help, as George was the oldest of seven in his tight-knit Roman Catholic family from Flint (“I’m from the city. Unlike Michael Moore, who says he’s from the city, but he’s really from Mt. Morris or something,” he grins.)

So four years later, George walked away with an M.D., but still credits shy of that B.S. in zoology. Last year, the anesthesiologist started thinking about going back for his bachelor’s degree and even made some calls to U of M, but it looks like his quest to be the Wolverine State’s next CEO has intervened.

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The Center for Michigan’s 2008 Michigan Scorecard

The purpose of the Michigan Scorecard is to provide benchmark measurements of how well Michigan is transforming its economy, government, and social systems during this complex era of change, challenge, and global competition. The measures included in the scorecard mirror the issues, principles, and strategies for Michigan’s transformation developed by some 1,500 participants in the Michigan’s Defining Moment Public Engagement Campaign.

This scorecard will be used by participants in the Michigan’s Defining Moment Community Conversations Round 2 (in early 2008). For those discussions, the scorecard provides a factual framework that participants can use to consider changes and reforms in the ways in which Michigan conducts the public’s business.

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