Submitted by Chris McLinden
The picturesque Schade Creek Vineyard on the southwest side of Waukee was the home of Dallas County Recorder, Chad Airhart’s “35th Big Blue Jean Birthday Bash”. If you missed it, and if you are a political junkie (like me), you may have missed one of the more memorable events in politics in Iowa’s fastest growing suburb.
The night was filled with compliments to Airhart for his work in Waukee and Dallas County, but also filled with jokes and good-natured ribbing at Airhart’s expense. As much as the event was a celebration of Airhart’s 35th birthday, it was just as much- if not more, a political event.
Red, white, and blue balloons along with Chad Airhart signs adorned the interior and exterior of Schade Creek. The featured guests were former Minnesota Governor & former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, Iowa Congressman Tom Latham and Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz. Other office holders and candidates were present, including primary rivals State Senator Pat Ward and Jeff Mullen, Iowa House candidate Rob Taylor, Iowa Senate candidate Jake Chapman, Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard, Dallas County Deputy Auditor and Auditor candidate Vicki Klein and Waukee’s Mayor Bill Peard.
Airhart was introduced by his Deputy Recorder, Tori Dickinson, and he quickly went into a laundry list of accomplishments from his first 16 months in office. At the top of the list is a $250,000 surplus at the end of his first fiscal year, with an even larger surplus estimated for the current fiscal year. Airhart also talked about an ongoing project that will make Dallas County the first County in Iowa to have 40 years of land records available online. Before introducing the dignitaries in the room and handing over the microphone, Airhart reminded those in attendance that he is always looking for ways to streamline county government and share services to save the tax payers money. It is simple said Airhart, “We spend less than we take in.”
In addition to getting a plug in for a “Photo ID Law”, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz joked in his remarks that there were times in Chad’s race in 2010 that Chad was raising more money than he was- and he was running for Secretary of State! The joking didn’t stop there. Congressman Latham poked fun at Chad for having so much political firepower in one room, two full years before he was up for re-election, with no real competition in site. “No other county recorder in Iowa could do this,” said Latham. He was only partially joking, using the same words to highlight the impressiveness of the crowd that brought 125+ people out to support an office holder two years before his office was up for re-election.
The featured guest of the night was former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Like Schultz and Latham before him, Pawlenty too joked with the crowd. He joked that Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted longer than his presidential campaign and highlighted (again joking) his new book, My American Journey, with a subtitle, From Minnesota to Iowa.
Jokes aside, Pawlenty’s remarks were sincere and highlighted the kind of person Airhart is. “I know politicians always say my friend, and they throw the word or phrase around, and it doesn’t always mean much, but in this case it means a lot. Chad is somebody who pulled along side with me, and we had a chance to share our life experiences, different in some ways but similar in others. At an early stage of our life we faced some challenges that at the time seems like a hardship with a lot of heartache and heartbreak. But when you look back on it with the benefit of years and decades you see that it steeled you and prepared you in different ways that you can now take advantage of and put to good use, and that is what Chad has done.”
Speaking to the room full of Republicans, Pawlenty went on to talk about the current Presidential race, and the need to defeat Barack Obama. He talked of how President Obama and his side have a worldview that the Government needs to do more and more, and that “their basic question is what more can government do that it is not doing? And the answer on our side is nothing!” Pawlenty serves as one of Governor Mitt Romney’s national co-chairs, and speaking of Romney said “Mitt’s gonna be the nominee, and it is time to pull together now as a team.”
In a serious moment, Pawlenty, known by many as “T-paw” asked, “Why are we gathered here tonight? Because it matters that good people like Chad are willing to raise their hand and say I’m willing to go do this. Because if we don’t have good people of good character of good competence stepping forward, then the vacuum gets filled by the goofballs, and we have enough goofballs in government. And when good people step forward and say I am willing to do this, it is incumbent on the rest of us to step forward and help them.”
This event wasn’t just an event to recognize Chad, it was an event to celebrate the good part about the “body politic” in Waukee and Dallas County. Who we are as a people, and those that raise their hands to serve us each and every day.