Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lyle Lindesmith taught me to love the Colorado Caucus.

In 1976, as a recently elected precinct committee person going door to door looking for a block captain on one of the few blocks in my precinct that didn't have one already, I met Lyle Lindesmith.

I was talking with everyone who was on my list of party members. I'd knock on the door, introduce myself, and ask for help.

Until the moment I met Lyle, my political mentor had been Karl Rove. Karl was National Chairman of College Republicans, I'd been elected Colorado Chairman. Karl taught me how to organize a college campus, my neighbor and new friend Lyle taught me how to apply what I'd learned to the neighborhood.

For years Lyle had led a 4-session class call "Action Class in Practical Politics." Each week he'd invite speakers from both major political parties, and students were give homework assignments of checking out their local neighborhood and county, reporting back to the class what had been discovered.

He'd been Executive Director of the GOP, and with Jeane Toole they developed John Love from an obscure El Paso County Republican into Governor. Lyle went with Love to Washington when he was appointed Energy Czar.

Lyle asked me to help with what I think was the last session of the Action Class he ever led, it was at the old Petroleum Club and community activist Jeanne Faatz http://www.jeannefaatz.org/ was in the class, just starting to think about running for elective office. She was soon elected to the state legislature, and now serves on the Denver City Council.

From time to time I stopped by and visited with Lyle at his business, Englewood Press on South Broadway, and he steeped me in his long-time political wisdom, advice that would have served me well if I'd paid more attention to it. Here's what I remember now:

*Make a decision whether you want to be a candidate for elected office, or if you'd rather be of service through party work. Lyle had learned from personal experience the two don't mix, that's been my experience, too.

*Party leaders, from precinct committee person to state chair do their job best when they stay neutral in candidate races. Let all the candidates bring new people into the party rather than compete for the party faithful.

*There are several ways to get involved: 1) Through the party structure; 2) Through auxiliary organizations; 3) Through candidate organizations. Lyle had Action Class members contact their local leaders in all three areas, look for opportunities to fill voids in their neighborhood.

You who are reading this now could become State Chair of one of the major political parties or Governor of Colorado if you'd take Lyle's sage advice to heart right now. What's the best next step for newcomers? I'll talk about that more tomorrow.

I didn't know Lyle very long, but he had a big effect on my thinking and he helped to launch many active citizens in both major parties. He passed away December 26, 1978 and I attended his funeral. There was never any recognition of his passing by the county or state party. Do you think it's too late now?
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