NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 25, 2011

Former NM governor talks politics

AMESBURY — Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson stopped by Maggie Sundae yesterday for a cup of coffee and a little conversation.

The visit, meant to give local residents a chance to talk business and politics with a knowledgeable source, was coordinated by local resident Alex Talcott of Vaura Consulting. Johnson was on his way to New Hampshire to discuss his Program for Real Job Creation, so Talcott invited the politician, whose career he has followed for some time, to stop by the coffee shop for a chat.

"What I find most interesting about him is that people tend to disagree what's most interesting about him," Talcott said of the former governor.

Johnson served as New Mexico's governor from 1995 to 2003. Prior to that, he was the CEO and founder of Big J Enterprises, a business that grew out of his door-to-door work as a handyman during college. By the time he sold the company in 1999, it had more than 1,000 employees and was a multimillion-dollar enterprise. In a state where Democrats hold a 2 to 1 majority, the Republican senator earned his re-election. In his time as governor, he took a business approach to running the local government, vetoing 750 bills, more than the other 49 governors combined.

"He really spurred debate about what the government should be responsible for providing," Talcott said.

He's also a well-recognized outdoorsman who climbed Mount Everest in 2003 and enjoys the thrill of the occasional triathlon.

"He's a Teddy Roosevelt of sorts," Talcott said.

The crowd of 15 or so who turned up at Maggie Sundae listened intently as Johnson talked. The discussion was scheduled to be an hour long, but ended up running for two. One of the audience members was a local handyman, looking to boost his business. Others wanted to hear Johnson discuss his stance on hot-button political issues, such as Social Security and the war on drugs.

"It was a free-flowing conversation," Talcott said.

Johnson is visiting states around the country as an honorary chairman for the Our America Initiative, a nonprofit political advocacy committee that promotes common-sense business approaches to governing.

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