Saturday, March 24, 2018

Lobbying for a little break


For almost 30 years John M. "Mac'' Stipanovich has worked at the top of Florida's political world, running a successful campaign for governor, serving as chief of staff for Gov. Bob Martinez and as a lawyer and lobbyist for some of the state's best-known businesses.

Always quotable, Stipanovich was dubbed "Mac the Quote'' early on. Who knew he could write?

Now at 64 years, Stipanovich is having the time of his life on Facebook, the social networking site better known to people half his age.

A week of babysitting with his five grandchildren was filled with his humor. His wife, Mary, and daughters Kaley and Heather left Stipanovich in charge while they were at Miraval, a spa in Arizona famous for yoga, dawn desert hikes and self-improvement seminars.

Soon he was neck deep in dance recitals, packing lunches, walking the dog, cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, dropping off and picking up children at three different schools and keeping up with meals.

"I will never again arch an eyebrow at a pile of unfolded laundry or unwashed dishes in the sink at the homes of my daughters, both of whom work full time. And I am going to erect a statue in the front yard honoring their mother,'' he wrote.

On one occasion he confessed to feeding the children breakfast at a doughnut shop where they enjoyed chocolate chip pancakes and bacon washed down by chocolate milk.

"Loin cloths and raw meat by Wednesday,'' he predicted.

"I know letting the computer or TV babysit is lazy parenting,'' Stipanovich posted beside a picture of four little boys in front of computer screens. "And I know letting the boys play Minecraft as much as I do will rot their minds. And I know it will be my fault when they do not grow up to win a Nobel Prize, or even amount to much. But I will be dead before we know what they didn't become, and what they are now is quiet.''

He added that his hourly "kid count'' indicated that one of the boys present before the computer screens belonged to neighbor, Rachel Perrin Rogers, a Senate aide. (Rogers posted a note indicating that her son got into trouble at school after displaying the F-word Stipanovich had taught him.)

Later the same evening Stipanovich was ready to toast women who handle all the household chores and raise the children.

"Dinner has been eaten, the dishes are washed, the baths are history, and the kids are in bed. Pictured below is my wine and chocolate, the wine to steady my nerves and the chocolate to boost my energy. And I do not care that I am going to have dimples in my butt if I hew to this diet much longer. Collateral damage."

Noting that his former sons-in-law were complaining about all the credit he was getting for "carrying at least half the parenting load in this godawful Week Without Women,'' Stipanovich suggested that those who want their stories told should "tell it yourself."

When the women returned late on the Friday night before Mother's Day, Stipanovich was at his most literate best: "There was no cloud of dust growing larger on the horizon to herald their coming, no swelling sounds of horses hooves and bugles as they drew nearer. But the cavalry has nonetheless arrived just in the nick of time. The siege is lifted. The hardly to be endured Week Without Women has ended."

And on Mother's Day, he continued: "On this special day, when I think of the wonderful mothers in my life — my own, my wife and my daughters — and the well-deserved devotion they inspire in me and so many others, I am humbled by the knowledge that but for me none of them would enjoy this distinction.''

Classic Mac, ever quotable, ever humble.

Sometimes the hard-charging lobbyist gets sentimental, like the day in March when he toasted an old friend:

"Raise your glass to Marcus Jones for whom my grandson Marcus Songer is named. He would be 66 today had a sniper not shot him in the head on Aug. 28, 1967. No boy ever had a better friend growing up. And when I asked him to join the Marine Corps with me, he only hesitated for a few moments before replying, 'Sure why not?'' Why not indeed…"

And then there was a description of "Milo, a rare Medium Tail Ordinary cat'' owned by his daughter, Kaley.

"These splendid animals cannot be bred, they must be created. First obtain an ordinary stray kitten. Take the kitten to the vet, feed it, care for it and then when it is a young adult and you think the time is right, slam the last third of its tail in a heavy wooden door, requiring its amputation."

If the cat survives, Stipanovich notes you will have a "hardy, albeit a tad surly, companion, proof against all the vicissitudes that can spell tragedy for lesser pets.''

Since the door slamming, Milo took an unintended 2-mile ride in the back of a pickup truck, jumped out and disappeared. He was discovered two weeks later and brought home. Then a dishwasher fell over on him with no ill effect, and more recently he spent three days in a storm drain refusing to come out as grandchildren stood vigil in the rain in shifts.

"No other breed of cat holds a patch to the Medium Tail Ordinary. I highly recommend them.''

Lucy Morgan is a retired state capital bureau chief and senior correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times. She wrote this exclusively for the Times.


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