The Chippewa Valley Regional Airport is a part of my daily life. Air Menard is in constant motion coming and going all day. At 5:30 a.m., United Express leaves for its first flight of the day. United Express continues on coming and going at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., then the last flight of the day at 9:30 pm. You get used to these coming and goings. My kids come and go from there to Los Angeles and Toronto. Unfortunately the flight(s) from Chicago to Eau Claire are unreliable.

Vice President Mike Pence flew into the airport a couple of weeks back. A seasoned observer or a person with good ears knows something is up if a VIP is coming. At that time, the aircraft flying into the airport are larger, usually in a military color (green or grey) and have multiple engines either prop or jet. Military helicopters, usually Blackhawks, fly in every so often, though it’s rare a Coast Guard Orange and White MH-60 Jayhawk graces our presence. When Pence was in town, the Coast Guard helicopter, I am told, came from the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Coast Guard Station. Sault Ste. Marie, in a bit of irony, is the county seat of Chippewa County, Michigan.

I don’t get too excited about my taxpayer dollars paying for this type of glad handing. I don’t even get too excited about President Trump flying to his golf courses. My problem stems from the fact that whenever the president and vice president or any other VIP fly into the airport is that they get sealed off from the public at a private employer or on private property. I also feel for the captive employees who must grin and bear it through the whole process.

In a public venue, I have shaken hands with Harold Stassen (look that one up kids), Richard Nixon, John Kennedy, George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy and Bill Clinton. George H.W. Bush and John Kennedy made stops in Chippewa Falls. It is possible to be out in public to meet and greet candidates. But it is impossible to shake a candidates hand if they are inside a private venue and only dish out tickets to their chosen supporters.

While I would not do it I feel it is the right of every true American to launch an egg at a politician they do not agree with. The English paper the Guardian, founded in 1821, points out that “Elizabethan-era theater crowds tossed eggs at particularly terrible actors, a practice that eventually became a more widespread way of punishing prisoners and politicians alike. (The concept of throwing food, in general, at political leaders has an even longer history: the earliest recorded incident took place in 63 AD, when Roman governor Vespasian was hit with turnips).”

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This is probably why that in today’s security conscious world armored vehicles run around the area when a VIP is in town. They are black and of course are conspicuous in the red and blue grill lights in them. I have a friend who at one time worked for cable TV. He was on a pole working when the Secret Service politely asked him to get off the pole, get in his truck and drive away from the scene of a VIP motorcade. They were serious; he was polite.

While I worked for the state of Wisconsin I met Govs. Thompson, McCallum and Doyle. I knew Gov. Evers from working on a couple of Aging School Projects with him. Wisconsin governors did not get the extreme protection or VIP treatment until Gov. Walker came along. I met Gov. Walker twice when he was in the Legislature. He really left me with no impression of him until Act 10.

One of the little know secrets is that visiting VIPs do not often pay their bills to local communities that provide services to them when they wander into town. Perhaps a travel account bill should be sponsored in the Legislature to have the VIPs pay up front for the services they use when they are here.

Oh well, in 2020 the circus will again arrive in town. Step right up folks to get your tickets, because that will be the only way you will see a VIP.

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John R. Andersen of Lake Hallie is a former state employee who remains active in the fields of fire prevention, government and education.


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