Yesterday we had a celebration in Casper, WY. It was well attended. It turned out to be a kind of reunion of people who had been touched by his life and his actions and particularly those who had worked with him.
I am sorry I can't share the video we all got to see of him growing up and his interactions with family and others, particularly since family meant so much to him. Since we can't see that video, I will share some of my remembrances, some of my memories.
In the end, there is only faith, family, and friends. Flip was one of the richest men I know in all three categories.
Flip had faith. Senate Chaplain Black lists Flip as his hero because of Flip's faith, in spite of the fight that went on inside him. Chaplain Black drove out to Flip and Sheila's home when they were moving back to Wyoming to do an anointing. I think that helped Flip make the long drive to Wyoming.
Flip quietly shared his faith with others. Flip participated in the Chaplain's weekly Bible study. Flip attended a men's prayer breakfast on Saturdays. Flip attended church faithfully. Flip had strength through his faith.
Flip knew the importance of family. His closest friend, of course, was his wife Shelia. He knew how lucky he was that she said yes when he proposed. He said it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He also said his parents liked her better than him.
Flip knew about cancer since he was the caregiver through Shelia's bouts of chemotherapy. Then, she was the caregiver and researcher through his operations, tests, and treatments. Her research saved his life more than once. Her love kept him going.
Flip knew family as a son, as a brother, as a husband, as a father, and especially as a grandfather. He filled all those roles well, and he was an example to others. My wife Diana and I feel like we are part of his family and his family is part of our family. Flip has been a caring brother to me, and Flip has also always treated staff as family.
Now, I didn't know Flip when he was the center for the Glenrock Herders football team, and I wasn't there when his dad lost the race for mayor by one vote and years later found out that his own wife didn't vote for him. I didn't know Flip when his dad found out he had skipped school for a few days, and his dad was on the school board. He loved his parents, but he revered his mother and he feared his father.
I didn't know him when he graduated from the University of Wyoming, or when he married Shelia, or when he got the job as Casper's assistant city manager. I didn't get to know him until I was mayor of Gillette.
As an accountant, I ran on a balanced budget plan and attended council meetings. Then I found out--and you can imagine the shock I had when I learned that as mayor you had to learn about sewer and sewer treatment, garbage, police, fire, parks, not to mention water, which in Gillette smelled and was color-coded and in short supply, or that the town owned its own dilapidated electrical system.
Now, it is hard to entice somebody with knowledge of those issues to come to a boomtown, but I was able to persuade Flip to pull up roots and become Wyoming's first city administrator. It wasn't until he had bought a house and moved Shelia to Gillette that he found out the ordinance he was to work under was only through the first of three readings and that the mayor had to break the tie with a vote to get it that far.
Flip and I have gotten a lot of things done working together over 40 years, starting with that job in Gillette. Flip has never worked for me, he has always worked with me. As a team, we used his city skills. I was just a salesman.
I remember when his son Jeff was born and then his daughter Sarah. I remember their excitement for each of these gifts of Heaven. I also remember when our two sons discovered Star Wars and each wanted a Millennium Falcon transporter. We were able to find models, and Flip and I spent our lunch hours for 2 weeks helping each other with the difficult instructions to meet the Christmas deadline.
As a team in Gillette, we also negotiated industrial siting agreements with 12 coal mines. We insisted that the companies provide a town that their employees would want to live in and to work from. Some of those companies were hard to convince. In their first trip to city hall, they would bring a small plan. I would look at it, suggest that they weren't serious, and then throw their plan in the garbage as I left the room. Flip would be the good guy and stay behind to put them on the right track. I am sure those old-line company execs wondered about negotiating with two kids just 30 and 27 years old.
Earlier I mentioned the color-coded smelly water that was in short supply. Thanks in large part to Flip, the town got a water system for 30,000 people, with only 10,000 people to pay for it. Together we were able to convince Standard & Poor's and Moody's that we had a sound plan for the system. What made our job more difficult at the time is that we were taking this on while New York City was facing bankruptcy.
Flip had to put back together a town, too, that was ravaged by a man on a stolen D9 Cat. The man drove over cars. He particularly didn't like sports cars, and he would go over them and back again. He pushed over power lines. He ripped up sprinkler systems and gas lines. He drove through a bank drive-up and through a schoolyard, and he wound up in an apartment basement after the D9 Cat pushed the building off its foundation. The Governor was in China at the time and sent the article about the incident in Chinese. My college roommate was in Saudi Arabia at the time and sent an article about the D9 Cat in Arabic--those were both a little hard to read.
Madam President, I also mentioned garbage. That is always a huge problem in towns and cities. In Gillette we had a landfill that was about full, and we needed another site. We made our annual visit to the county commissioners to request $25,000 from the county people for the use of the landfill. The chairman said: Why, with that amount of money, we could run the whole thing. Flip said: We would be willing to pay you $25,000. They agreed. Flip had the paperwork to them that afternoon and had it signed. It saved the city millions. After that, everywhere Flip went, other towns would ask: Now, how were you able to get the county to take that landfill over? I can tell you, it hasn't happened since.
Even recently, reflecting on the lack of money we saved and the problems we worked to solve, he said, only partly joking: We can finally tell about all the things that happened since the statutes of limitation have run out. I think Gillette was the test case in court for every new way the State suggested that towns could operate.
After our time together in Gillette, Flip got a job as city manager in Laramie--an actual city manager. You know he did his usual excellent job because his 15 years of serving there set a new record for longevity. He was a leader in other ways, including by serving on the board of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities until he came to Washington. He attended conferences for, spoke to, and was a part of the International City Management Association for the rest of his life.
In Washington, his municipal reputation followed him. Any State with a city or town problem referred the administrators to Flip, and he usually could work with them to find a solution. He also counseled city managers, often resolving their situation--although sometimes also helping to find them a more suitable occupation.
Let me tell you how he came to be in Washington. When I was elected Senator, I had over 500 applications to be my chief of staff. Flip had not applied. He was the only one I could picture working with in that role--organized, focused, a superb manager; he knew how I liked to operate, could find good people, was able to successfully juggle multiple crises. So my son Brad and I drove to Laramie. I caught him at the office after everyone else had left, which was normal for Flip.
I said: Flip, I need you to come to Washington and be my chief of staff. He said: I never went to Washington. I don't like Washington. I don't want to go to Washington. I won't go to Washington. So we visited about our families. Then, as Brad and I left to drive home, Brad said: I think you got him. In disbelief I asked: What part of ``absolutely no'' do you think was yes? But Brad turned out to be right. I got a call the next day from Flip, who said: If that job is still open and I can get a few answers, Shelia and I talked it over, and we might be interested. Well, I got the answers, and he and Shelia came to Washington, and he and I were a team again for the next 20 years.
Flip knew the importance of working with everyone and co-founded the bipartisan chiefs of staff organization here in the Senate. He organized and managed a Senate team that helped pass a record number of bills.
Flip was also the best planning meeting facilitator in the country. He led our staff in an annual planning session to focus everyone on what they would be expected to get done the next year, and then he pushed to get those things done. He insisted that we never call it a planning retreat. He would emphatically slap his hand on the desk and say, like General Patton: We never retreat.
Flip was also competitive. I remember a contest between him and my first legislative director, Katherine McGuire, to see who could take the most spice in their Mongolian barbecue--without beer.
Sometimes Flip traveled with Diana and me on the weekends and the Wyoming work periods. Now, you know, in Wyoming that can include bad weather. One time Flip was driving us in a blizzard that hit us between towns, and it was one of those wet, heavy storms--the kind that clogs up your windshield and you have to stop your car every few miles and clean the wipers off and clean the windows off. We were wondering if we would ever get to Kemmerer. He stopped once, then quickly got back in the car, laughing vigorously. It was very un-Flip. I got out to see what was so funny. We had almost run over the sign that said: ``Welcome to Kemmerer.'' What a relief.
Flip was always quick to take the blame for any setbacks. That infuriated me, since I usually knew who really set us back. But he always got to the source, and like a good father, he turned the employee error into a teaching moment. Flip was a people person. He was a brother to me, and through the years he provided me with teachable moments too. I can still hear him say: ``Mike, that is something you really need to do.'' Of course, if it was a really tough assignment to talk me into, he knew to enlist my wife Diana.
Everyone learned to listen closely to Flip's commonsense instruction. He always downplayed his role. The most prideful thing I ever heard him say was ``Not bad for a butcher's son from Glenrock.''
I mentioned faith, family, and friends. Let me conclude with a few notes from friends, as I ask you, the staff, his friends, to jot down any and all memories that you can think of about Flip and share them with Sheila and the rest of his family. I assure you that is the best way to fill the hole of the hurt we all feel.
From Leader McConnell's chief of staff: ``He had a great knack for knowing when to encourage, when to kid and when to make you laugh through the stresses we all face.''
From a new leader of the chiefs of staff: Our beloved friend, colleague and fellow chief, Flip has passed after a long and courageous battle with cancer. We appreciated Flip's self-deprecating humor, straight talk and professionalism. We were witness to tremendous character, faith and courage as he walked through the blow of cancer. He was a friend and mentor when I was a young chief of staff. I was privileged to be part of a weekly prayer group with him.
From Steve Northrup, who was the health policy director of the HELP Committee: What Flip went through these last several months would have broken the spirit of a lesser man. We can take solace knowing he is with God now, with no more pain, only peace. He was a friend and mentor and an inspiration as a public servant. He was a ``scary man'' when he needed to be, but he was always there when I needed support, advice, or [to give you] a kick in the pants.
So you can see that Flip had friends everywhere he went and even ones whom he didn't know because he served and he listened. Many people have mentioned that he actually heard what they said.
Flip, we know you have been welcomed into your Heavenly home and the Lord has told you: Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Flip, I thank you for calling me in your last hours to say goodbye. We miss you, Flip.