(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - 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 to play.
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 good days.
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 back then.
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)