The Crucible of Public Service
Steady, purposeful, compassionate, thoughtful, quiet, humble, kind, joyful, patient, dignified and… funny.
It is understandable that this past week, a momentous announcement took
Unfortunately, in today’s political environment, announcements like this are often followed by speculation that something else is afoot; that the elected is stepping down for some other troubling reason. That, of course, is not and has never been true, about Andy Kunasek. place. But it passed with very little attention. Announced the same day that several other elected officials grabbed the spotlight announcing their own plans, Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek announced his retirement from representing District Three on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for the past nineteen years. During some of the stormiest of periods in Maricopa County government history, when the very foundations of the County government were being rocked by a County Attorney and a Sherriff who were clearly using their own powers to undermine the authority of the County Board of Supervisors, one man held STEADY: Supervisor Andy Kunasek. While the hint and fact of criminal prosecution from the hands of an unethical and now disbarred County Attorney were real, Andy Kunasek stayed calm and worked with his colleagues to steer the county ship into a safe harbor, avoiding outright disaster.
He acted in a PUPROSEFUL manner, being COMPASSIONATE to his colleagues, and was THOUGHTFUL in avoiding the hot political rhetoric which could have inflamed the situation further. He QUIETLY went about his business of building a governing consensus, in a HUMBLE way which did not seek attention or headline.
It is said that the crucible of public service, those hot contentious moments where everything in your soul says do A, but your character says do B, reveal your true character.
As a 30-year veteran of the elected politics in Arizona, I can say that I have personally witnessed such character in only rare circumstances: Matt Salmon supported the first Martin Luther King Holiday as a first time candidate for the State Senate in an overwhelming Republican conservative district in the East Valley. Attorney General Grant Woods chose to pursue the first hate crime statute in Arizona in 1991. Senator John McCain stood up for campaign finance reform when the Washington money machine was steadfast in its opposition. Governor Jan Brewer vetoed five straight Republican budgets before she had even been elected Governor – because she knew in her heart cutting that much from state government would jeopardize the health and welfare of our most vulnerable populations and damage Arizona’s hope for economic recovery.
While moments such as these reveal the underlying individual character, the equally important question is what do those events do to the person who has endured that crucible? Does it change them for the good or does it damage them and their ability to handle conflict over time? Do they become testy, short tempered, arrogant, and dismissive? Or do they become a better version of the person they were before the conflict?
Again, and without exception, Andy Kunasek stayed the Andy Kunasek I had always known; KIND, PATIENT, and DIGNIFIED.
Sure, the hair thinned and got grayer, the words came more slowly and the demeanor a bit more somber and mature. But, weeks and months later, the laugh was still there, the humor surfaced and the absurdity of political life mixed with those character traits and a newer, better version of the guy I knew before stood in front of me.
As he leaves his distinguished County service, all of my colleagues and I here at HighGround just want to say thank you. Thank you for your public service. Thank you for the self-sacrifice and the honor you bestowed upon everyone around you.
You bring out the best in all of us, you made us all better. Godspeed Andy Kunasek.