We were around in 1988 when Rose Mofford, Arizona's longtime Secretary of State, ascended to the Governor's office after the impeachment of Evan Mecham, a Glendale car dealer whose tenure was a (yet another) national embarassment.
Well before she became governor, we had known Rose as an accessible government official who personally had helped us collect documents for a story or two for this very publication. With her over-the-top French chignon and as much mascara as Tammy Faye Bakker, Rose almost was a caricature of something a bit off-kilter -- until you got to know her.
She was pure Arizona (the cool part of Arizona), a straight-talking onetime fast-pitch softball player from Globe who had started right of high school as a secretary to the state treasurer before toiling for two decades for Secretary of State Wesley Bolin, who, too, became governor for a short stretch before dying in office.
Rose Mofford took the helm as Arizona's first woman governor in the aftermath of one of this state's most dismal political times: Mecham had been an unmitigated disaster, a divisive little man for whom alleged conspiracies against him by the media and anyone who dared disagree with him were commonplace.
Governor Mofford had no big ideas about how to take over and run things, and she exemplified the status-quo of oldline Arizona in most ways.
But she was nice about it, and eminently real at the same time.
We bumped into her in the bar at Durant's on North Central Avenue one night shortly after she became governor. She was waiting to be seated with a friend at her usual corner seat in the bar area of the venerable steak joint, and we said hello to her.
"Hello, Paul," Rose greeted us, immediately remembering our name. "Are you still playing softball and writing all those stories for the New Times?"
Then, she told her friend that we always had been nice to the people who worked for her at the Secretary of State's office. We weren't so sure about that, but we took the compliment.
Rose always was, and is, fun.
We see her every year at the Arizona Softball Hall of Fame banquet (she's in the Hall as a player), and hang with her for awhile, listening to her carry on about the "meanness" of today's political scene.
A few years ago, we decided to play Devil's advocate with her on that point, noting that Arizona politics back in the day wasn't nearly as genteel as she was suggesting.
Rose didn't agree.
"No, I know nasty when I see it," Mofford said. "A whole lot of people in politics these days are just nasty, through and through. It's awful."
Happy birthday, Rose.
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