(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK, March 2 The road to the governor's
mansion is not always paved with public-service positions. Many
state leaders got their starts in much humbler jobs before they
even thought about running for office.
For the latest in Reuters' monthly "First Jobs" column, we
talk to a few of the nation's most popular governors about the
earliest days of their careers. It turns out that some leaders
started out a very long way from stately capitol buildings.
John Hickenlooper, Colorado
First job: Lawn mower
I grew up outside Philly, and when I turned 16 I got a
summer job with a company called Lawn Kare. They had teams of
five kids each, and we would go out and mow lawns for places
like country clubs, estates and churches.
The bad part was that you had to be there at 6 a.m. Since I
had to ride my bike 4 miles to get there, I had to get up at 5.
That's way too early for a teenager. But the nice part was that
we got off work at 2:30, so we still had a big chunk of the day
This was a long time ago, so I think I made a couple of
bucks an hour. My mom grew up in the Depression, and her opinion
was that money was not to be spent, but to be saved. She even
sewed her own dresses. So I saved a lot of the money I made -
although at the end of the summer I did buy myself a stereo.
The job's big fringe benefit was when the owner gave us each
a Coke, which cost a dime back then. Even today, when I get
government forms like Social Security estimates, that lawnmowing
job is still on there.
Jay Inslee, Washington state
First job: House painter
Around 13 or 14, I started painting houses with my dad
during the summer. Those were glorious, beautiful, paint-filled
days. To work with my dad, I felt like I had achieved manhood.
The great thing about painting is that while you are on the
scaffold, you can talk and work at the same time. I learned a
whole bunch from those talks with him.
I also had some great naps. It was kind of a family
tradition that after lunch, we would take a 10- or 15-minute
nap. Laying under an apple tree in somebody's yard - those were
He taught me three things about painting: use a full brush,
flick your wrist, and check your work. When we worked together,
that paint flew - the rose bushes usually ended up with as much
paint as the walls.
I was paid very well. Whether it was compliant with all
state and federal regulations, I'm not sure. But over three
summers, I earned enough money to pay for one year's tuition at
Stanford. So I had a really great year - and then went broke.
Matt Mead, Wyoming
First job: Rancher
My great-grandparents first homesteaded near Jackson Hole,
and my grandparents and parents were both ranchers too, so my
job was working on the ranch. The first one I actually got paid
for was to drive an old tractor pulling a hay rake. I was only
7, so I was small enough that they had to modify the brake pedal
by putting wooden blocks on it. They started us pretty young
I made $5 a day, which I was very glad to have. At the end
of the first year, I blew the whole wad buying a minibike, which
I wrecked. It was worth every penny.
At 9 years old I even had a bad tractor accident, and was
hospitalized. It cut my scalp pretty deep, and my hair grew back
white. But those were different times, and that's just how
things were done back then. Everyone had to step up and
contribute. That first job shaped my life in a positive way, so
I'm actually very grateful for those long days.
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Matthew Lewis)