Parting Words from Parkinson

by Melissa Brunner

Tuesday night, you'll have a chance to hear extended conversations with both outgoing governor Mark Parkinson and governor-elect Sam Brownback. Ralph Hipp sat down for a half hour with Brownback, while I spent a half hour with Parkinson.

A few thoughts on my assignment and why I think you'll find the conversation with Parkinson interesting. (Note: no political statement here, just the way our schedules aligned. I know Ralph found his time with Brownback interesting as well.) We began our interview with several minutes devoted to Parkinson's defection from the Republican party to join the Sebelius Democratic ticket. Parkinson used the word "traumatic" in describing how he was affected by some of the fallout. It was also the first time I heard him speak at length about Sebelius' rise through the national political ranks, why he didn't think she'd be going to Washington when he joined her ticket (hint: Hillary Clinton), when he realized he might assume the governor's chair and what he did behind the scenes to prepare.

I also asked him questions some of you submitted via Facebook and Twitter, things like his biggest accomplishment, decisions that will have lasting impact and what he would have liked to do. I chuckled when I asked what people don't know about the job and he replied that it's not really all that difficult! I also found him to be candid when he described knowing that a particularly difficult decision did, in fact, have the result of hurting people in need. There also was a lot of pride as he discussed how his wife, Stacy, and their children have handled his time in office and an upcoming move to Washington.

In the media, at times, we apply a different type of definition to whether a public official has been good or bad. The terms, to us, don't necessarily apply to their policies or decisions, but how accessible the person has been. On that front, in my experience, the Parkinson family has been good. Politics aside, he has generally been available to us when asked and he'll answer our questions, even when they've gotten tough. As First Lady, Stacy Parkinson threw herself into the Topeka community and seemed to generally embrace the experience. The Brownback family, as well, in my experience, has been much the same, so as we welcome them to their time "under the dome," we wish the Parkinsons well.

And is there any part of Mark Parkinson that wishes he would have tried to remain a bit longer? Well, you'll have to watch the interview to learn the answer!


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