Editorials

An inspiration through the ages

The Colorado Statesman

Friendships that have withstood the test of time are truly special, particularly if they have survived the political arena and all the challenges that entails. When I look back at longtime friendships made over the years, I am often amazed that most are still intact, especially since part of my job consists of writing about political people who have also become personal friends.

I’ve cringed at the prospect of potentially embarrassing friends who have done stupid things in the political arena. In some instances I’ve simply glossed over their miscalculations, hopeful that I wasn’t being too forgiving in a job that sometimes calls for complete candor.

And there are likewise other times where perhaps I’ve shared too much with readers, thinking that my political friends would surely appreciate the recognition when clearly it fell within the realm of being too personal.

It’s a balancing act that I know others experience as well.

I was thinking about this last week when the relative of a longtime friend passed on.

Shirley Siek, the well known mother of political consultant Mike Stratton, died last week at the age of 79. I hadn’t seen her in a long while, but I have kept up my friendship with Mike since the late 1970s when I first met him as I was beginning my career at The Colorado Statesman. I can’t remember our exact meeting, but I know we’d already begun our friendship by the time Jimmy Carter was running for president in 1980 and Mike was managing his Colorado campaign.

I tend to mark friendships in political time, and I know that from 1980 to this date, there’s hardly been an election in which Mike wasn’t involved, either personally as a campaign manager or political operative, or through his political firm, the former Stratton Reiter Dupree and Durante, which has subsequently undergone several name changes over the years to reflect the varying partners who have enriched the consulting company through co-partnerships. I’ve known Rick Reiter for several decades now, was friendly with Will Dupree when he was a player back in the 1980s and ‘90s, although I never got to meet Durante, whose name nevertheless graced the first paperclip holder that the firm sent out to clients during the Christmas holidays almost 35 years ago.

A couple years ago the name of one of Colorado’s premiere consulting firms changed again, to Stratton-Carpenter & Associates, to reflect the addition of Jim Carpenter, former chief of staff to Gov. Bill Ritter and a well known political policy wonk himself.

I remember going over to the Stratton’s home in Park Hill in the early 1990s to take photos of Mike and Sally’s firstborn son, Matt. Over the years as Matt was growing up with his younger brother Sam, Mike would send me notes and fill me in on the youngster’s milestones over the years.

Matt was awarded a Presidential Academic Scholarship in 2007 at George Washington University, the 186-year-old school founded by the nation’s first president. A student-athlete and leader, the honor-student (3.6 GPA) earned four letters in golf, was a state golf qualifier four times, team MVP three times, All-Conference three times, All-State Academic three times, All-State in 2006, and team captain in 2006 and 2007.

In 2005, Stratton was a Colorado Delegate to the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) in Washinton, DC. And taking an early cue from his politically active dad, Matt himself was a political activist and campaign volunteer, and at age seven (1997), was the youngest person in President Bill Clinton’s Inaugural Parade, riding on the featured “Bridge to the 21st Century float.”

Matt’s grandmother — Mike’s mother — and a friend to countless people over the years, Shirley Siek was an iconic example for all. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called her “a magnetic person and inspiration to me for 30 years.” Former Gov. Roy Romer stated, “Shirley carried a lot of water for many of us, and she will be dearly missed.”

If you haven’t already read about Shirley’s life in our Feb. 8 issue, I urge you to do so. You will be inspired, and will also see how greatness flows from one generation to the next, to the next.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com