Buster Johnson: Sen. John McCain & me
I was lucky enough to be able to spend time with the Senator. I met John when I won my first primary election in Mohave County and he was at a club meeting in Lake Havasu and just as he was exiting the room, he told the crowd to support me in the general election. As a new supervisor in a rural county I had a lot to learn. When John came back to Mohave County he called and asked me to pick him up at the airport and drive him around to various functions. He gave me time to appear on my local TV show when I knew he had many important meetings to attend and these interviews extended his day quite a bit.
During these trips to the area, I was able to ask many questions about his votes in Congress and he would patiently answer all my questions. For a fresh faced elected official this was quite an experience and a wonderful insight into what went on in Washington in order to get anything done.
As time went by, I looked forward to his visits and our one on one time. The man was on his cellphone constantly and I got to hear a lot of interesting conversations.
His influence was so worldwide and I was amazed by the wide range of people from the regular citizen to the highest official he talked with over time.
Yes, I knew of his temper, but never witnessed it. He was more of a calming force and would convince people to settle down and discuss the issue and more than once I heard him tell people to just let it go.
John would call me throughout the year, usually at night. The first few calls caught me off guard. I would be very professional and wondering what and why he was calling, and how he got the time to call. I soon learned that he wanted to know what was going on in my county, what I thought about was going on in the state and to just check on how I was doing. He would always ask what he could do for me. I was impressed that he could and would make the time for a personal call with so much on his plate.
John would fly into Bullhead City and spend a night in Laughlin, NV. I soon found out that he loved to gamble, and many a night I would tell him he was on his own as I simply couldn’t go 24/7 like he did and needed some rest.
I believed this was a little relaxation, some fun that got him away from the day to day pressures. No matter how early in the mornings he played the tables, he had breakfast and was ready to go at 8 a.m. and was always fresh and ready for a full day.
As the years went by, I especially got to observe his keen wit. I would loudly complain about waiting on the tarmac for his plane, which was always late, and the fact that I was not elected to sit around waiting for him. Other officials greeting him would wince, but he would always smile and have a comment about my job performance or lack of to even the score.
I have many stories that I can’t tell but suffice to say they always ended with a laugh.
A problem in D.C. is getting around congressional staff to get to a senator or congressman. I never had that with John. He hired great people who never short stopped me from reaching him or handling local problems or concerns. He was always available on my trips to D.C. and I was amazed at how much he knew about what was going on in my county. On occasions, I would let him know of someone who could really use a call from him. Usually just a regular citizen who appreciated what he had done or a veteran who needed a little cheering up. John always found the time and I would hear back from those people who were so thankful that he took the time to inquire about them or to just say hi.
In his many visits to Mohave County he would make time to meet with regular people and posed for thousands of pictures.
Not once did he tell me he had to leave before everyone had their moment with him.
I was a delegate to the national convention in 2008 where John was elected to represent the Republican Party in the general election for president. It was a great time for me to see someone running for president who went out of their way to listen to the little guy as well as the movers and shakers.
After his defeat, John was back in Mohave County I was not sure how he would handle the defeat. I didn’t have to worry about his attitude or devotion to the people he represented. Our first trip together he never mentioned the race, blamed anyone or complained about “if I only had done this.” I actually heard conversations where he was telling people to calm down and work on problems that mattered, not waste time on the past.
I was in a car crash on one of my trips to D.C. and one of the first people to check on me was John. I have no idea how he knew of the wreck, but it meant a lot that he took the time to call and check on me.
We didn’t always see eye to eye on legislation or policies. A few times I couldn’t contain myself on pointing out his possible errors. He always explained his reasoning, never mentioned that he was a senator and I was a lowly supervisor, but never saw the wisdom of my opposition. At least he listened and didn’t hold any animosity.
In John’s 2010 campaign, he asked me to represent him in Mohave County. It was an honor to be asked and I told him that I would gladly do it, but that as I was the Chairman of the County Republican Party, I would need to step down from that position. We had some discussions on the issue and he told me to keep my chairmanship as he knew it was important to me.
The power that he held in D.C. was unmatched. If John got behind a project it got done. Even small problems that I brought him from our county, he got them corrected immediately. I am not saying he weighed in on all of my issues, but, those he found important were taken care of. I knew of the demands on his time and was always thankful for his help. As his health was becoming a problem he still devoted countless hours on the Armed Forces Committee. He felt so strongly about our military and dedication to duty that he put his work before his health.
I have only one regret from knowing Senator John McCain.
I had to turn down an invitation from his family to be at his service because I cannot travel at this time. That will be my only regret for knowing John.
Buster Johnson represents Lake Havasu City on the Mohave County Board of Supervisors.