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The Long Way Home

The announcement in mid-February that former President Jimmy Carter was beginning hospice care was sad, but hardly a surprise. At 98 years old, the longest lived of any president, this was to be expected.

It got me remembering how my path and President Carter’s paths have crossed over the years. Initially, President Carter signed into law the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 and the Stagger’s Act, which began the deregulation of trucking and railroading and saw a rather meteoric rise in my professional life.

In those days I didn’t consider myself political, that would come in the aftermath of partial deregulation. I didn’t pay much attention to who the president was or even think too deeply how the legislation Mr. Jimmy signed was going to impact my life.

Fast-forward to January 2006. My political godfather in Las Vegas, John Moran, had worked in the Carter Presidential campaign in 1976. John asked me to volunteer with the US Senate campaign of Jack Carter, the former president’s son who lived only a couple miles from me.

Jack was hoping to unseat the incumbent Senator, John Ensign. His campaign was unsuccessful, but Ensign managed to unseat himself. Shortly after the 2006 election, he had a two-year affair with the wife of a senior staffer who was also said to be his best friend. The affair was revealed in 2009 by the cuckolded husband. The scandal that followed, an attempted cover-up, and a subsequent Senate ethics investigation led to Ensign’s resignation in 2011.

Back to 2006. Jack was going to announce his candidacy for the Senate at an event on the Monday following the Super Bowl. His family, including his parents, were coming to town for the announcement. I was the driver, for those in the family that weren’t chauffeured by Secret Service Agents, picking them up at the airport and back to Jack’s. Next, I drove those who weren’t staying with Jack and Elizabeth to a local hotel. Then I returned the van to Jack’s subdivision Sunday evening, under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service, so it was available to ferry people to the announcement the next day.

Jack and I stood and talked for a bit, then he said, “There’s nothing else to do today, unless you want to meet my dad…for what that’s worth.”

As I’d never met a President, or even a candidate for President, I jumped at the chance to go into Jack’s modest home to meet Mr. Jimmy and Miss Rosalynn. He was sitting on the couch with his grandson Jason watching the football game, and she was in a chair alongside. They were gracious to this dumb old freight broker who was interrupting their family time and I stayed for just a bit. Great people.

During Jack’s campaign, I had the chance to meet with the former president during campaign events he attended. We always did the “Hi, how are you?” thing and chatted about the weather, family and friends.

US Presidents do have a profound influence on real people, good and bad, while in office. President Carter revealed, through his work with Habitat for Humanity, election integrity around the world, and health care through the Carter Foundation, that the best chance to impact the lives of real people can come after being the official resident of the White House.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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