It's 8 a.m. on a Friday and I'm sitting in a parking lot getting ready to head out on the campaign trail. I have no problem being up early but being up early to be in the sun hammering campaign signs into the ground is not my idea of a good time.
Today, I venture out putting up signs with some volunteers from Claude Mattox's campaign. I was told last night that although we'll be putting up signs in Ahwatukee the volunteer who is actually from Ahwatukee, Eric Heimbecker, won't be able to join us as he has broken his collar bone - partially because of the wear and tear he sustained putting up campaign signs.
Heimbecker is one of four guys putting up nearly 600 signs across Phoenix for Claude Mattox. Today, I head out with Tom Bilsten, the campaign's field director, and volunteer Ben Lujan, a recent graduate of Skyline High School in Mesa.
I'm, of course, intrigued why this 18-year-old from Mesa is giving up about 20 hours a week to sweat it out in the sun in Phoenix putting up signs and putting fliers on doors for an election he can't even vote in. But, Lujan has been involved in student council in high school and when his teacher, Bilsten's wife, Krista, asked if anyone would like to join the campaign, he volunteered.
"I get to see how it all works," Lujan said. "If any other campaigns came and reached out to me I'd gladly help them out, but my teacher reached out to me. I always wanted to be involved so I might as well take the opportunity."
Lujan told me it's been cool to be able to talk to Mattox and get to know him. Mattox has taken the time to interact with his volunteers, even taking them out to breakfast after a long morning in the sun or throwing a barbecue just to thank them.
I follow Bilsten and Lujan around as they do a few signs. They pound each pole into the ground with a pole pounder that must weigh about 20 pounds and then attach the sign with wires that have to be tightened with pliers. Luckily, today is a little cloudy, but I can't imagine doing this for eight to 10 hours a day, three times a week, like they do.
They've got a truck full of signs they'll put up after I leave but they've also got a box of fliers to put on doors, so after just a few signs we go to a neighborhood.
It's still early so they're not going to do any knocking, they just leave the flier and go. According to Bilsten, they've put fliers on about 31,000 homes in Phoenix. In that time they've gotten two complaints.
"We just keep going and going," Bilsten said. "We work our way through as much as we can until it's too hot to keep going."
I only stick with Lujan and Bilsten for about an hour before I head back to the office to call Heimbecker.
I found out he doesn't really prescribe to the two-party labeling system, but admits he leans more toward the liberal side when it comes to social policies.
"I was really impressed with Claude's business credentials," Heimbecker said. "It really sounds like he has a solid plan to get Phoenix back on track to being a booming economic center. Specifically, his history and his future focus on international business attracting."
Heimbecker got involved in the campaign after graduating with his master's degree from Thunderbird School of Global Management. He said he's always been a very political person so it seemed like a natural fit to get down in the trenches.
Even with six weeks of healing ahead of him, Heimbecker's injury is not stopping him from talking to people and passing out fliers. His dedication seems natural when I hear how much a part of the campaign the volunteers are. Heimbecker said he sees Mattox at least once a week, but usually more like four times a week. He'd recommend getting involved to anyone.
"If you care enough about your community and your neighbors and you want a better future for your community it's a great way to help make that happen," Heimbecker said.
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