This is a short article that is a little bit about Senator Bob Huff, but mostly not.
I don’t write about every legislator but had been thinking about the soon-to-depart members who will be leaving office in the next few weeks. This evening, I saw a note on Facebook by a friend who thanked his boss, Senator Bob Huff “for a great experience.”
It got me thinking about my observations and handful of conversations with Senator Huff and the lessons that might be learned from his service in the legislature. The basic points of his service were actually pretty standard;
- Like a lot of term limits-era legislators, he came from local government (serving on a City Council for a decade before arriving in the Assembly);
- He served in both houses (which is a little more rare) and served 12 years between the two houses (which pretty standard for two-house members).
What made him stand out to me was the way he served. Let’s call this The Parable of Someone Else’s Car.
Term limits (specifically the restricted terms they offer legislators) can tell you a lot about people; how they treat other people’s things. Some politicians treat their elected offices like rental cars. From the way they interact with constituents and treat their staff to the seriousness with which they cast their votes, they clearly communicate “Hey, I’m not keeping this thing forever. It’s a rental! It’s just getting me from Point A to Point B.”
From my observations, that wasn’t Bob Huff. He treated his seat in the legislature like it was his father’s car. For all the downsides we got from the constant churning of legislators that term limits brought, the single best thing we received was the occasional legislator who understood that the seat they held was never really theirs and that someone else would occupy it in eight or fewer years.
Bob Huff didn’t rev the engine to show everyone how cool he was and he generally signalled when he was about to change lanes. He remained appreciative of the gift of public service that his neighbors had given him, he enjoyed the ride, and he returned it with a full tank of gas for whoever would be using it next.
He’s not out of the woods yet; there are always ample opportunities for former legislators to damage their reputations (just ask Assembly Speaker Yule). But as he leaves the Legislature… I think he can be proud of his accomplishments and the fact that he didn’t add any new dents or scratches to the 29th.