There are times when just getting an interview is the hardest part. That’s how it was with then-Mayor Mike White, who apparently directed his underlings to give me the runaround for weeks when I wanted to interview him about his decision not to run for a third term (“Stepping Down,” August 2001). Finally, I got a call. But not quite the one I was expecting. The mayor, I was told, wants to meet you for a picnic. Do you like turkey sandwiches?
We met the next day at Voinovich park, sat on a concrete ledge and ate the picnic he had brought. The sun was shining. A soft breeze fluttered the pages of my notebook. Except for the four tape recorders sitting between us (I’d brought two and so had my intern), it looked like lunch with a friend.
Our “picnic” lasted nearly two hours, during which time White outlined his case against his growing list of enemies: City Council, the business community, The Plain Dealer, the police union. Maybe he thought I’d need the protein to hang with him.
What I found, though, is whatever his faults — a question still not fully answered — Mike White still had the kind of charisma it takes to be a great leader. He wasn’t using it much anymore. But, along with potato salad and a couple Snapples, he’d definitely brought it that day.
“There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t question how we can be a better alpaca breeder,” says White.
— “Peace of Mind,” by Kristen Hampshire, from COSE Update, , Aug. 2007