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Morris Andrews

MaOn the road pretty non-stop over the past few weeks, I returned home over the weekend and began catching up on local news through my community's two weekly newspapers (yeah...the daily just doesn't do it for my lifestyle). Alas, I learned that a former collaborator and conspirator had departed terra firma during my absence. 

Morris Andrews was, truly, the most amazing political mind with whom I've ever had the opportunity to work. This obit in the Capital Times outlines his amazing accomplishments...and the ability to artfully and deftly work both sides of the aisle (a skill that few today possess).

My eulogy for Morrie will take a much more targeted tack. It was his involvement in the referendum fight for Madison's Monona Terrace the caused our two paths to collide. I was the new kid in town. Morrie was the veteran. His lower lip would often protrude when I'd suggest a tactic for the campaign...and I never knew if it meant he was considering the concept or if he was trying to figure out how to tell me I was an idiot.

It was Morrie that suggested, early in the 2-year campaign, that we field phone banks. I (the padawan) questioned him (Yoda) as to the efficacy of such a move. Why would we attempt to sway public opinion more than a year out from the vote?

With a wry smile, he suggested that this phone bank wasn't to inspire...but to gauge public opinion. He needed to know why residents opposed the project in order to mount an effective response to ultimately win the public vote.

As I look back upon the keys to the win, it was that moment that rises to the top. Within days of the weeks-long phone banks, we knew that there were only two issues that concerned voters. The opposition was flailing away with 13 reasons why the project was a bad idea. It was Morrie that guided us to focus on what mattered to the electorate and to ignore the superfluous.

My other favorite memory of those heady times was that I was, admittedly, a bull in a china shop when it came to engaging the opposition. I desperately wanted to respond to every lie and misdirection they threw out into the public discourse. It was Morrie that subtly shook his head and held me back, knowing that it was not yet time.

I'll never forget the moment, a week before the vote, that he smiled that wry smile, nodded and said "Go." And, minutes later, I faced off against an opposition spokesperson on the evening news and took him down hard.

Days later, we won with 50.8% of the vote (4 out of 5 people on the street today will say they voted for Monona Terrace, so successful it has been in the renaissance of the Mad City). Morrie's brilliant counsel accounts for at least 10% of that vote...maybe more.

Madison is blessed to have had Morris Andrews and George Nelson in position to help lead the community through the '90s. We are who we are because of these two great individuals.

Godspeed were an inspiration and a teacher to so many of us. And, I'm able to guide others toward success because of the truths you taught me.

Bill Geist

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