Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Another great John A. story

There's an expression in Raleigh, often used to explain how a political figure came to change his mind on something he had previously and publicly been staked out on pretty well. The term is this: "He had it explained to him so he could understand it."

Gary Pearce, the former aide to Gov. Jim Hunt (and author of a forthcoming biography about the four-term governor of North Carolina) passes along one of those stories in an anecdote he heard yesterday. It's from a friend and it's about the late John A. Williams, a Raleigh businessman who died the other day. John A., as he was known, helped bring order to Hunt's first two terms in office and, among many other things, saw to it that the bureaucracy did what Hunt wanted it to do. No doubt he explained a lot of things so the other person could, at long last, understand it.

The story is classic:

"I was with John A. on a Friday afternoon recapping the week at the legislature. John A got a call from a DOT district engineer about a (proposed) traffic light at an intersection down east. The engineer was explaining about all the traffic counts, and surveys and studies, when John A stopped him with this: 'Let's just hold it right there. I really don't care about all your surveys and studies. All I know is that Senator X wants that light. And the only question I have is whether you put it up or whether your successor puts it up. (pause) By Monday noon would be fine. Nice doing business with you.'

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