You Can't Brew Success Like This in a Hurry

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's not unusual for a politician to start small and end big, to go from an obscure office at the start of a public life to a prominent one at the height of it.

But that doesn't mean it's easy to do, or that it's pre-ordained. The odds of it happening, in fact, are long.

In politics, as in any field of endeavor, there are only a couple of rungs at the top, and there is space only for a few of the many who step onto the ladder.

And, oh, how long the climb can take!

Consider the case of Steve Brewer, the 61-year-old Democrat from the central Massachusetts town of Barre, who was just named Senate chair of Ways & Means.

One of the most decent persons you will ever meet, at the State House or anywhere else, Brewer first took office in 1977 as a member of the Barre Board of Selectmen. He remained on the board for seven years, the final two (1983-84) as chair.

While on the board, Brewer went to work in 1980 as an aide to Bob Wetmore, who held the Senate seat Brewer now holds. For eight years, he labored faithfully and well for Wetmore and his district.

Although low-key and unassuming, Brewer in the kind of smart and attentive soul on whom nothing is lost. He learned a ton during the Wetmore years. That knowledge, combined with a tremendous work ethic and personality, put Brewer in good shape when he ran, successfully, for state rep in 1988 and for re-election on three subsequent occasions.

In 1996, the time came for the acolyte to match the mentor.

Brewer entered and won the Senate race in the old Wetmore district, a 29-community behemoth spanning four counties to the north, east and south of the Quabbin Reservoir. He has held it ever since. Securely.

Thirty-four years!

That's the portion of Steve Brewer's life consumed by the journey from selectmean in an out-of-the-way town to prominence and power in the capital of the state. You don't have to be a political scientist to imagine how arduous that life has been.

Forget for a moment the thousands of meetings and issues, the endless needs of constituents, the conflicting demands for attention and support, and the relentless two-year election cycles. Think just of the number of car trips Brewer has made from Barre to Boston, and back, since 1980.

Shuddering yet?

So, Congratulations, Chairman Brewer, wise and humble mid-state champion!

You deserve that spot on an upper rung.

And it's good for Massachusetts that a man of your balance is poised there now.

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