I have known Chuck Repke since at least 1993 when I came aboard to manage the St. Paul Mayoral Campaign of Norm Coleman.
In those 22 years I imagine Chuck and I have agreed on politics and policy about 22% of the time.
Chuck has always been a big, scary imposing kind of guy – even for me who is rarely scared or imposed upon by anybody other than my wife and my daughter when she was a not yet one-year old screaming at me for letting the doctor’s poke and prod her at the hospital.
I always enjoyed a good dust-up with Chuck when he worked for City Councilmember Dave Thune and I worked for Mayor Norm Coleman. I am pretty sure most of what we fought about was who had a louder voice — or who could look scarier.
I award Chuck that victory.
In St. Paul government and politics Chuck has remained a fixture long after I left City Hall – and long after he has, as well. Chuck remains forcefully engaged in public policy and politics in a way that seems to deepen and become more passionate for him as he gets older.
Whether it is on Facebook, in the newspaper, or somewhere else, Chuck is making an impact on life in St. Paul. He remains a DFL activist who gets his hands dirty in the nitty gritty details of DFL conventions and precinct caucuses long after most of us have run frantically away from these chaotic rituals of street politics.
Despite my disagreements with Chuck, I am firmly convinced America needs people like Chuck Repke, now, more than ever before. And, we need other people not like Chuck Repke, now, more than ever before.
In an era in which it is easy to throw out “facts” without verifying anything there needs to be those who will challenge those who casually state their positions as fact without having any evidence they are correct – or have any idea what they are talking about.
Now, Chuck’s facts and my facts may not always be in alignment. Those 22% of the times we disagreed about things meant that I was likely right 78% of the time.
But I have no evidence of that. I am just saying that.
Which is why Chuck Repke matters. And, why those who aren’t Chuck matter.
It is easy to disengage from public life and politics today because it has gotten meaner, shriller, less substantive and less productive. I have to admit that I have done much of that disengagement myself.
But not Chuck. Thankfully, not Chuck.
Or the people that are on opposite sides of him.
They remain dutifully convinced they are making a difference. That their voice and their actions matter. And, public service is at the cornerstone of what they believe.
Behind that gruff demeanor of Chuck Repke, who has less of an abiding passion (or belief) in God than the average person in politics who seeks God’s guidance for doing right by their fellow man and woman, is a guy guided by doing right by his fellow man and woman simply because it is the right thing to do.
Frankly, whether you believe in God or don’t, you should just be a decent fellow to those around you and care about what happens to them.
Enter Chuck, that guy.
The importance of Chuck Repke and people not like Chuck Repke is that they play a pivotal and vital role in American government and politics.
They keep the passion in it. They believe there is a fight that has to be fought. A goal that has to be achieved. An objective that will ultimately make the world a better place for everyone.
I find my passion for politics having diminished nearly entirely in my life.
But, I find it, from time to time, flaring up when I see injustice in places around the world, my country, my state and my city. My challenge today is to find a way that I believe is meaningful to make a difference.
Chuck Repke and people not like Chuck Repke remind me that making a difference is sometimes the difference between speaking up or staying silent.
Chuck may still be wrong 78% of the time, but Thank God for the 22% of the time that he is right.
And, for the 100% of the time he has remained determined to change the world around him.