Gov. Rick Snyder has not completed his re-invention of Michigan but he has successfully erased one of the biggest fears about letting an outsider grab the reigns of government.
Just after he scored his surprising victory the self-confirmed non-career politician raised all sorts of apprehension in this town over his lack of hands-on legislative experience. Some predicted it would be a huge liability. It was one thing to run a business where you could fire folks who did not follow your commands, but that stuff would never work with a legislature that does not roll over for anyone..even one of their own party members.
That was the word on the street.
In one breath the insiders would reference that and quickly recall that Jennifer Granholm had problems adjusting to the Lansing culture and when you compared Gov. Snyder and her to former Gov. John Engler, there was no comparison. He had 20 years of legislative experience and whether you enjoyed what he did to the state, John M. Engler got stuff done.
There were doubts this Ann Arbor business guy could waltz into town and get-er done, as the cable guy use to say.
"I was wrong. Totally wrong," confesses one of those insiders who had his doubts about the new governor.
Lansing barrister Richard McLellan earned his wings driving the car for former Gov. Bill Milliken and graduated to transition director for Mr. Engler when he assembled his first cabinet. Mr. McLellan is now one of the governor's go-to guys on a variety of issues from the bridge to a re-do of the state's school aid act for education. Somewhere between then and now, there's been a conversion.
McLellan now thinks Mr. Snyder "can match John Engler in terms of governance."
The new governor was fully aware of the insider chatter and angst so he moved in his characteristically quick manner to reduce it.
Instead of bringing in all his cronies from Ann Arbor and the business world, he recruited Lansing players who knew what he didn't.
During the campaign he picked a Lt.. governor who was relatively new to the legislature, but Brian Calley still had more experience than the former computer CEO.
The governor immediately launched a "getting-to-know-you" effort inviting legislators from both sides of the aisle to private luncheons/chats in the executive office. Suffice it to say many had never been in a governor's office. It was a deft touch by the new gov. on the block to do it. He even included state employees who for sure had never been inside the inner sanctum.
When it comes to his style of governing, Mr. Snyder is unlike those who proceeded him. "It's not about me," he likes to say at every stop. "It's not about R's and D's," he goes on and eventually every audience gets a strong dose of his RPA, Relentless Positive Action, mantra. Now every modern day governor has been an optimist but this one is over the top.
Other governors, especially Gov. Engler and Gov. Blanchard, thrived on the inner machinations of the political game. Moving the puzzle parts around brought great joy. Gov. Snyder could care less.
"I just want to get solutions," as he explains why the game of politics holds no allure. "It's not about blame. It's not about credit. It's a better model that I'm trying to represent," he said in a year end interview last year.
He thinks the citizens are "fed up" with portions of the American political system i.e. the lack of compromise in Washington.
On that issue on the home front, the governor has talked a good game about doing that with the Democrats, but his compromise record to date according to some Democrats is very weak.
The governor's defenders says he has tried to do that but Democrats backed away from some deals such as the Highland Park school financial mess at the last minute.
Rep. Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) contends her side has offered to work with the governor on health care but those overtures have been ignored according to her. Nineteen months into the mission, the governor remains a work in progress and while he's had his share of hits and misses, the lack of personal Lansing experience is not one of the reasons why he has failed on occasion and the doubters are starting to come around to that conclusion as well.