Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 18, 2014

Rob Ford: 3 women had power, influence long before they knew it

Local columnist

---- — I had the fortunate circumstance of living with the influential forces of powerful and brilliant women pressed upon the budding persona of Rob Ford from an early age.

My mother was a former member of the United States Marine Corps. I don’t know if your mom was ever a Marine, but mine was, and from as early as I can remember, her themes of personal responsibility and respect were more than evident.

“Show up to work five minutes early, Rob. Nobody ever got in trouble doing that,” was just one of the more valuable pieces of advice she’s given to me.

So, home life was covered.

My early school days were a parade from one female elementary school teacher to another. I was in the sixth grade before I had a home room teacher who was not a woman. From that point on, the genders were mixed, but the influences of women upon my life hardly ceased.

In fact, when the regular teachers were absent, the substitutes may have even more influential.

A certain aspiring judicial candidate named Betty Weaver was a frequent substitute teacher at Glen Lake during my middle school tenure there. And if Miss Weaver achieved a reputation as a stern dispenser of justice from the bench of the Michigan Supreme Court, it comes as no surprise to this former student of hers.

Where my mother’s lessons of personal responsibility and respect were learned around the dinner table, in church or throughout the household, Miss Weaver’s were dispensed somewhere near the business end of a firmly clutched yardstick.

The justice wasn’t what anyone would ever call ruthless or reckless, but from the moment you entered a classroom of hers, the notions of who was in charge, whose rules would be adhered to and what the consequences for straying would be were never in question. As a student, you might not have liked it, but you knew what the deal was. It was as simple as that.

The passing this week of former Lieutenant Governor Connie Binsfeld reminded me that I had once upon a time had also been a school aged student of hers. Mrs. Binsfeld was also a substitute teacher in our school from time to time prior to her forays into first local politics and then on to the Legislature and beyond.

Again, having a substitute teacher was always a roll of the dice, both for student and teacher, but my recollection of Mrs. Binsfeld is that she, like Miss Weaver, was one of the more interesting ones. She was kind of like having a friend’s mom come in for the day. And not the mom who would give everyone free reign, but the mom who had something fun for you to do.

The mom who taught you something even though you thought you had gotten the day off.

The really fun part was that we all got to follow her as she carved her political path. Getting elected county commissioner was one thing, but to know somebody who was elected and had to travel all the way to Lansing to her job was fascinating to a middle-school aged kid.

While the career paths of Weaver and Binsfeld were noteworthy and public; my mother’s was not, but I know that she was proud to have been personal friends with both Weaver and Binsfeld.

You will never know where the influences in your life will come from and the definitions of women in power will continue to evolve. But I will always feel that three of Leelanau County’s most powerful women helped shape me to be who I am today.

To all three, my deepest gratitude, and to Mrs. Binsfeld, may you now rest in peace.

Rob Ford was born and raised in northern Michigan. He lives in Elk Rapids where he owns and operates Riverside Title. He can be reached via email at