Hallman is the second of three sons. His father was a math teacher and wrestling coach at Arcadia High School. But his mother, Evelyn, a seamstress (and, at one point, diesel mechanic!), was Hugh's hero, personally and politically.

The rest of the family were yellow dog Democrats. Evelyn was a Goldwater girl.

"She was a 'stay out of my bedroom, stay out of my wallet' kind of person," Hallman says. She also was so loyal to the GOP, her son recalls, that she cried when Nixon resigned.

An excellent student, Hallman graduated from Coronado High School. He got into Claremont McKenna College in California but had to spend a year at ASU first to save money. (His résumé still lists the blue-collar jobs he held during his college years: combine operator, waiter, busboy. Like any good politician, he's smart enough to be proud of his humble roots.)

At Claremont, as a sophomore transfer student from a middle-class family, Hallman felt like an outsider. He still managed to be elected student body president and graduate summa cum laude, with a double major in economics and political science and a minor in accounting.

A lot of smart people will try to convince you that they're natural-born geniuses, that they didn't work for their grades. It's a way of fitting in, perhaps; they want to make it clear that they didn't choose to succeed. At heart, they're really slackers like the rest of us.

Not Hugh Hallman. He's never tried to hide the fact that he works his tail off.

In college, all that hard work was driven partly by insecurity: "I didn't know how much I could relax and still do fine."

It paid off. After graduation, he landed a plum job with Ronald Reagan's campaign: deputy assistant to the national campaign director.

It should have been heady stuff for a 22-year-old kid.

But this was 1984, and Reagan was well on his way to winning 49 states. The election wasn't so much a battleground as a coronation.

"The minutiae became the focus," Hallman says, disgusted. "If you're on a campaign that's doing that well, people have a lot of time to argue about the size of the lamp in their office."

Even today, Hallman doesn't understand why Reagan was more interested in winning a landslide than an ideological victory.

"He decided he needed to be the most popular president ever," Hallman says. "We lost the war of ideas in that 1984 campaign."

So the disillusioned idealist went to law school — at the University of Chicago, no less. There he met his wife, Susan, who was in medical school. They graduated, had three boys, and moved to Tempe, to a house just three doors down from the one where Hallman had grown up, on the edge of Papago Park. Susan practiced internal medicine; Hugh practiced law.

And then, in 1991, came a call from Barbara Sherman.

Sherman, a good friend of Hallman's mother, was a neighborhood activist turned city councilwoman — and she thought something rotten was afoot.

The city, under Mayor Harry Mitchell, was about to privatize Tempe Beach Park, which abutted the dry Salt River bed.

The park had been badly neglected. But rather than devote the resources to fix it up, the city had decided to give the prime land to a for-profit developer.

"That was insane," Sherman recalls. "You don't give away private parks."

Sherman was having trouble getting more information about the plan. (There is no love lost between her and Mitchell, now a congressman.) So she called Hallman, then an associate at Brown & Bain, to help her draft a records request.

Hallman remembers his shock. "You're on City Council and they won't give you the records!?"

"That gets me started on a slippery slope greased with Crisco," he says today, ruefully shaking his head.

With its dreams of national consensus, the Reagan campaign was a bad fit for a scrappy contrarian. But saving Tempe Beach Park — outsmarting the ruling clique to keep a local treasure in the hands of the people — was something that played to Hugh Hallman's strengths. Not to mention his populist sensibilities.

As it turns out, city staff had quietly opened a request-for-proposal process for a private party to redevelop the park, but the staff didn't do anything to publicize the opportunity. Naturally, one well-connected developer was the only guy who put in a bid. And, Hallman and Sherman say, the proposal was lousy.

The City Council was prepared to approve it anyway. Tempe was a town where everyone got along. Mayor Mitchell was enormously popular, and everybody knew and liked the developer in question.

That wasn't good enough for a gadfly like Sherman — or her new, passionate ally.

So Hallman and Sherman rallied the people to save the park. Today it's still publicly owned. (And, thankfully, no longer neglected.)

Because of that experience, Hugh Hallman became involved in city politics and, eventually, ran for council. He saw no point in waiting for an open seat; the powers that be were shocked when he won on his first try.

He didn't even need a run-off: In a field of nine candidates, Hallman beat all three incumbents and earned 52 percent of the vote.

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2 comments
Cissyie
Cissyie

It's sad, but I see a lot of older men who are afraid to "come out" after being raised in an atmosphere of unwritten gender-identity rules and old-tyme religion. I know that for me it was a challenge to face my fears about faith and god and the ways we accept or reject ourselves, but I'm young. It saddens me to see men who've spent their whole life trying to cover-up a compulsive, barely awknowledged, and yet incredibly rich and complex side of themselves. It's not a sin to be left-handed, but it may be a sin to always be writing with the right hand just to keep the "love" of those close to you. It's a sin because that isn't real love; it's fear. Don't betray yourself in order to not betray another. That is the highest betrayal. BiLoves.com is a good place for people to come out.

Celinna
Celinna

It's sad, but I see a lot of older men who are afraid to "come out" after being raised in an atmosphere of unwritten gender-identity rules and old-tyme religion. I know that for me it was a challenge to face my fears about faith and god and the ways we accept or reject ourselves, but I'm young. It saddens me to see men who've spent their whole life trying to cover-up a compulsive, barely awknowledged, and yet incredibly rich and complex side of themselves. It's not a sin to be left-handed, but it may be a sin to always be writing with the right hand just to keep the "love" of those close to you. It's a sin because that isn't real love; it's fear. Don't betray yourself in order to not betray another. That is the highest betrayal. BiLoves.com is a good place for people to come out.

 
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