Ted Strickland was tough on governmental policy, but gentle in his caring for all members
Senator Ted Strickland was one of the few (mercifully) guys in the Senate who called me “Hughie.” (Others: Plock, Williams, Schieffelin, Garnsey, Kinney.) Ted and I were elected on the same day in1968 along with three others: Les Fowler, Don McManus and Carl Williams. Carl and I survive at this moment.
I mention the intimate name-calling because it characterized most of the relationships between the senators in those days. The GOP caucus was a pretty close-knit group and I think the Democrats were, likewise. But the general focus on the well-being of all Coloradans was shared by both groups. The ambience in the Senate Chamber was one of civility and order. Secret caucuses meant we were able to thrash out differences of opinion without giving the thespians in the group a public stage for their political ambitions. And the privacy of talks between lawmakers denied the media an opportunity to divide us based on our privileged, heated discussion. Cross-party friendships were common and valuable in the give-and-take of legislating.
Strickland, recognized by most as a true Gentleman, was tough on basic governmental policy but gentle — up to a point — in his caring for all members. That point was somewhere along the spectrum of “suffering fools gladly.” And in his presiding over the Senate — or over a committee — he was patient and inclusive, leading by the example of a man who knew his own limits and respected the rights of others.
As President, Ted insisted on an efficient management of the Senate's business — he knew the rules and he enforced them fairly, with regular good humor to smooth ruffled feathers. He was a good listener, sought advice from anyone interested in his ideas, and helped other members with their legislative programs. Through the development of his personal relationships with all legislators — including many in the House — Ted helped us all to deal with impediments to fraternalization such as the Sunshine Act, which effectively cut off more than brief encounters among members.
It was a different time, and probably easier to deal with than today’s reported chaotic rough-and-tumble. Real leaders create such relaxations of inevitable human tensions so that the work moves ahead. Ted was such a leader.
RIP, old friend.
ED’s NOTE: Thank you to Hugh Fowler for his endearing comments about an old friend. Fowler is pictured below in a fun photo taken at the Legislature by Morgan Smith, who served as a state representative during some of the same years as Strickland and Fowler. The caption reads, “The long session.”