Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Transcript
X
00:00:00

ROMOND: This is a follow up interview with Congressman Romano Mazzoli, conducted by Jan Romond for the University of Kentucky Library, Kentucky Legislative Oral History Project on February sixteenth, at 1:15 PM. Congressman Mazzoli, when you first went to the General Assembly, right after you were elected, what did you hope to accomplish there?

MAZZOLI: I probably had very few goals and, uh, true missions. I think I went there on the idea that--uh, I believe I touched on this in the earlier interview--that young people--and I was then thirty-four, thirty-five--that young people, John Kennedy could really play a, an important role in public life and in public policy. But to be 00:01:00perfectly honest, I did not get to the legislature, I was not elected on a platform of said, "I'll build this road, or we will, uh, create this park land, we will," I really think that I campaigned on, and, and people accepted me as someone who would be thoughtful and work hard, and based on my father and mother and their reputation in the community, which was excellent, and which was for hard work and honesty, that I would just carry that tradition forward on every issue that came to me. So, um, it, it doesn't sound very, uh, remarkable and it probably wasn't. And it doesn't sound like, um, a, a major type of story here to say that you could be elected to the state Senate and not really have some type of a, a role or mission that you wanted to accomplish. But I didn't, um, in any way that I can now recall, except for I wanted to be sure that my colleagues respected me. I wanted to be sure that I worked equally hard and maybe harder than they 00:02:00did. I wanted to know what was going on. And I may have mentioned in the earlier interview, that for reasons sometimes beyond my own, uh, reach, I became known as one who did read the bills and did understand the bills because I would try my best, as I would stayed in that hotel room at nighttime, to read and be prepared for the next day. So, sometimes your reputation gets beyond reality. I certainly didn't know everything in every bill. But I did get the reputation of being a person who did try to understand the issues.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: So that's I'd say would be it. That when I went to the General Assembly, I just wanted to make sure that I approached the issues with as much thoughtfulness--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --and intellectual ability as I could summon. And then work as hard as anybody around.

ROMOND: Uh, did you have an idea, when you first started about what the role of government was or did you come to an idea as part of being 00:03:00in government?

MAZZOLI: It probably emerged from--again, I may have spoken to this earlier--of the many, many dinners, which occurred in the early years of our marriage with, uh, other similarly situated young couples.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: This gaggle of young couples, all of whom were married in the mid- to late 1950's and were our close friends. And so, as we sat around the table and talked about Dr. Spock, and talked about children, and childrearing and, and jobs, et cetera, we also talked a lot about politics, and, and probably a little bit more than, you know, in addition to that the role of government.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: So, I believe I came into the legislature with an idea that government did have a very legitimate and very positive role to play in our lives. I can't say that I went in there with the view that there was an absolute limit that the government had or should've, um, accept 00:04:00in how far it wants to go into our lives or into the management of our, uh, situation.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: So, I never really struggled or suffered with the line of demarcation between a government which is fulfilling its mission, and a government which has overstepped. Uh, there were times when I probably voted against bills because I felt that government didn't have to do it. The people should do it for themselves or local government could do it rather than state government. A, a type of federalism where you return to the lowest, available, and, um, and effective level of government, the job of doing certain things, which it's capable of doing, and then not having to impose upon a government. But, again, in all candor, I don't recall wrestling with myself and, and trying to lay down these markers as to where we were going. I guess I looked at 00:05:00each bill as it came up, tried my best to understand it, tried my best to figure out where it fit into this emerging picture of government for me, which eventually encompassed federal government, because then I soon thereafter went to, to Washington. And, and all of these then eventually fit together and formed a type of, uh, political philosophy. But at that time, in those early years, in those early days, I probably did not have a clear-cut picture of where I wanted Kentucky to go, or Jefferson County, or the Thirty-Fifth District of Jefferson County to go except that I wanted to be sure that government was able to help them get wherever they were going.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And, uh, didn't intrude but at the same time stood available.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And that may be what eventually is the outcome of all those 00:06:00hundreds and thousands of votes that I cast that, during those, uh, two sessions.

ROMOND: Um-hm. What did you see as the, as the big issues that Kentucky was grappling with at the time that you are in the General Assembly?

MAZZOLI: The big issue we grappled with was money.

ROMOND: Right.

MAZZOLI: And if you want to turn the clock forward to 2006, the big issue they're wrestling with now is money. Uh, we wres-, we wrestled with the question of, "How do you produce money to do the things the government, legitimately, the state government legitimately should do?" And it boiled down to the suggestion of, of Governor Nunn, a Republican governor, for a five-cent sales tax, if my memory serves me correctly, or it may have been a one-cent addition to the existing sales tax, I am really fuzzy on that. But it was Governor Nunn's suggestion, and very, very adamantly opposed by most Democrats, because it was, a sales tax 00:07:00is considered to be a tax on the people--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --who are at the lower end of the income scale; they don't have a lot of options. So, most of their money that's left over after paying rent and utilities is used to buy food and clothing which then were taxed. The richer people have money left over after their necessities and after they buy what they need to buy and they can put some of that away. So, whether or not it's a fair characterization of the sales tax as being heavily imposed on the poor and less so on the middle and upper classes, I don't know but there was quite a fight on that. Eventually, the sales tax was imposed--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --and then that may have been the last time that any governor really tried to touch a sales tax or almost any kind of a tax. It remains to be a, a very big burden for any government, any chief 00:08:00executive to talk about tax increases. It's easy to talk about tax deductions--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --or tax decreases with the theory being that if you put more money in individual pockets, they'll find ways to create businesses, which in turn will produce tax revenues and you'll build up the coffers that way. But, so, rather than directly impose a tax to build a coffer up, you do it sort of indirectly by giving people money to, uh, invest.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: But, again, um, the idea was that we needed money. The state did, according to the governor and to the, the general view of the economists.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And so, do you do it by the, um, option of reducing taxes or by raising taxes? Well, Governor Nunn elected to raise the sales tax. And I think that it became known--and, and you might look this up in the archives--but I think it became known as Louie's Nickel because it was a five-cents tax, now, whether it was one-cent to the four or 00:09:00a total of five, uh, but it became known as Louie's Nickel. And that was draped around Governor Nunn's neck for the rest of the four years of his term. And he never was able to shed that. Um, and it's one of those, uh, unhappy facts that once a reputation is created by the media, or by the, the moment, then it's very hard to, to change--

ROMOND: --yes--

MAZZOLI: --that in the years ahead. And so, a lot of people, a lot of future governors have resisted mightily any, any type of thought of raising taxes, and so they tried to cut spending, they tried to encourage growth to increase the tax revenues, but not to do it by the imposition of taxes because they saw what happened to Louie Nunn. And, um, later, and I have to remember, he ran against--let's see-- '68, to '72, in '74--in '72 he ran for, for U.S. Senate. And he ran 00:10:00against Dee Huddleston, who was a member of this original Senate that I was serving in. And Louie did not win that race; uh, Dee did. Dee Huddleston of Elizabethtown did win that race and served a couple terms up there and I think that the sales tax came into play right then. So, um, tax increases and money issues where the big thing then.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And today they remain the same. I remember once in the context of Congress but it's applicable here, of taking the issues that face us in 1970 when I first went to Congress and faced us in '80 or '86. And I, I labeled them the E's for the letter E in the alphabet: energy, environment, ethics, um, and there was a, a third or fourth. But they 00:11:00were very prevalent and very major in the early seventies and they remain so in the middle eighties and they're there right now. You're still talking about drilling in the Arctic, uh, National Wildlife Range. It's an environmental issue; can we extricate ourselves from the clutches of the Mideast on oil? Can we move away from, just like President Bush said in the State of the Union, uh, you know, we're, we're slaves to oil, we're, can we move away--ethics? Good lord, we have in Washington now all kinds of ethics probes and lobbying scandals. Um, the, um, energy, environment, ethics, and the, the economy--that was it--

ROMOND: --hm--

MAZZOLI: --and the economy, which gets us to taxes and money and who can spend what and how much. So, I think in life, as in politics, relatively few things change. They put on a different dress or a different suit of clothes and they may dye their hair differently, but it's the same set of issues.

ROMOND: Yes. Do you think that the geographical nature of Kentucky 00:12:00makes it a difficult state to govern?

MAZZOLI: Hm, I wouldn't say, so I, I would yield to some of the political scientists who may have made a study of this. I mean, we're a landlocked state. We don't have access to the sea or the ocean. Uh, however, we have navigable rivers and there's quite a bit of commerce done that way. There may have been parts of the eastern part of the commonwealth that was very much isolated because of lack of good roads and before the days of telecommunications. And so, they might've been considered behind the, the times, uh, simply because they weren't, uh, able to move about as freely as those of us from the central part of the state or the bigger cities. But--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --I'm not sure it makes governments different. I think we're a state that's probably hard to govern because if you go to the east, 00:13:00you've got mountainous terrain and you've got coal and its deep mined. You go to the central part and you've got tobacco and beautiful, verdant, rolling fields. You go to the, to the east, uh, to the west, you're talking about alluvial land, you're talking about the delta, you're talking about the Mississippi, you're talking about growing cotton. So, when you have states in two time zones, and probably three geogr-, geological strata, and, um, and three pretty clear, definite geographical hun-, hunks, then it's probably tough to govern because you just have a lot of different issues affecting people in very different ways. You don't have homogeneity at all in the people of Kentucky.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Once again, the people from the far west are almost, they're more Alabamians; they're more southerners than they really are mid-, like, uh, the mid-belt or the mid-south. Those of us who come from Louisville and now Lexington were, were practically mid-westerners, 00:14:00we're almost easterners now, we're in eastern time zone--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --and plug-in to the New York Times and that type of thing. And then you take to the far east and, of course, you have people still up in the mountains. Uh, very different now than it was twenty years ago or forty years ago when I was there, but nonetheless it's not, uh, not an easy state to govern, but chances are California with its immense amount of people and its variations. Florida the same way, the Panhandle is redneck country; the, the sun-south Florida is Cuban and Hispanic.

ROMOND: Yes.

MAZZOLI: And it's, uh, basically the money center for South America now. So that has to be tough to govern, too.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And, um, so I, I think it's, um, almost every state could probably lay down a premise that theirs is a very tough state to govern, too.

ROMOND: Um-hm, um-hm. What do you recall about the day your father came to visit the General Assembly?

00:15:00

MAZZOLI: Well, it was a magic day, and I happened with my sister's help- -and bless her soul--to, uh, dig up a, a barely readable copy of John Murphy's story from February of 1968. My dad was within two months of his death. And when he came to Frankfort as my guest, and John recites in his story words that I had long since forgotten of how I introduced my father. But basically that he was a, an eleven-year-old boy came here from Italy, and as an immigrant, unable to speak the language but worked hard, and had a wonderful skill of tile and marble and terrazzo. And he, not by particular choice but by necessity, eventually opened up his own company in our garage and in the back our, the trunk of our car. I mean, it was, it was anything but a, a sophisticated operation. But Dad and Mother doing the book work and the bookkeeping ran that little business and eventually, um, uh, built a little place, a little, 00:16:00uh, store--well, not a store, a little, uh, shop.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And, um, in that shop, Dad worked hard all the years left in his life. He started the business by necessity back in 1941 and died in 1968. So he had that place all the time, and he, we worked with Dad, uh, all of us, the kids, the three of us. Um, Rich was more talented in the mechanical side, so he stayed on after I left and went into law and then, um, eventually politics. However, Dad was the spirit of the company because everything he knew in life revolved around tile setting or terrazzo laying or marble setting. Everything involved construction and dealing with people and dealing with them properly and honestly and, uh, and quite, uh, ardently to serve them. And when, 00:17:00after this long life that Dad had, uh, of hard work, not a long life in longevity, but in hard work, uh, he died and then Rich attempted to run the business and it just didn't work. And so eventually it shut down or it was sold off, uh, basically. But Dad was a very interesting man. A wonderful person, very gregarious, quite an athlete. Um, knew many, many people. Basically could walk in a room and everybody there was his friend even if they were all strangers. He, uh, and Mother were very different both because Dad was from the northeast of Italy where they have a very different, uh, background. Uh, more dramatic. In fact, as parenthetically as I look at the Olympics today, the Winter Olympics in Tur-, Turin, the, there--and I cut the picture out, the New York Times had a picture of four Italians that constituted one part 00:18:00of their alpine team. And there was like Glausner(??), Strausner(??), you know, all German names, and yet they were Italian. So, it was a very different part of Italy. Mother's people, though she was a Clevelander, but, um, Mother's people came from, um, Sicily, and so everything from, uh, their skin tone, you know, the northern Italians are much fairer the southern Italians are, are more swirly. The language pattern, the northern Italian is pretty clipped and--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --the words are distinguishable. Southern Italian, there's a lot of illusion and you, you move sounds from one word to the sound of the next word, and very difficult to sort of interpret and to, uh, speak. Different taste in their food.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Northern Italians do not use pasta; they, they use, uh, cornmeal. And southern Italians, of course, pasta or ------------(??) flour is one of their staples.

ROMOND: Right

MAZZOLI: Uh, the same way with olives, there, there are relatively few 00:19:00olives, if any, grows in the north, and, you know, southern Italians have much olives. So, very different in their personalities as well. Mother was not nearly the outgoing person that Dad was. But somehow they worked--(laughs)--they worked it out over all those years. And through their hard work and devotion gave us an opportunity to become what we were capable of being, uh, in a sense of going to school and improving ourselves, and developing ourselves. And so, each of us did different things in life. My brother Richard, who continues to work today, is a wonderful technician, uh, quite a mechanic, a beautiful artist, he's, he paints, he sculpts. Uh, quite a patriot, he served the country for over thirty years in the military--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --uh, in the active and then reserve.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And has basically run, though not owned, but run two or three 00:20:00companies that literally would not have survived without him. And my sister, um, did not go to, beyond high school; she began college and then left to marry but raised, um, three very beautiful daughters and has several grandchildren now.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And, um, so I credit Dad and Mother together with having somehow meshed all these differences they had, uh, into en-, enough of a unity that they were able to keep their business on track and send us to school and give us a chance. And so, I credit them. I may have mentioned in the earlier interview that, uh, each time I go downtown to pass the federal building where I was for the twenty-four years of my, of my, uh, career, and see my name on the building, and it happens that my father's name is the same of mine, save the middle initial. Uh, he had no middle initial or didn't claim one and I do have a 00:21:00middle initial. And so when I see that building and I see that name, my first thought is not of me or--though I am thankful to my friends in Washington for having done this--but of the fact that Dad, who didn't live to see my election to Congress, did live--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --live to see me elected to the state Senate. And from the story, which you'll read that John Murphy wrote, loved it very much and, and vicariously through me lived the life that he could not on his own live.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Um, and he mentions that after my introduction and the standing, spontaneous round of applause from my colleagues, uh, then that order of business ended and Dad then came on the floor and met some of my friends. They gathered--

ROMOND: --yes--

MAZZOLI: --they gathered around him. And, uh, he saw Lawrence Wetherby, who was the former lieutenant governor, who was then a state senator.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And Lawrence, uh, was from Louisville originally and played a 00:22:00lot of football and Dad was a great athlete, a great football player--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --a great softball player, a wonderful bowler, bowled 300-games a couple of times. And so he and Lawrence Wetherby relived their, their exploits on the gridiron right there on the Senate floor. (both laugh) So, I thought that was, that was pretty cool to, to read that again, which I've forgotten about--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --to be honest, until Trish brought that up, brought that out.

ROMOND: What was the occasion of him coming to the General Assembly that particular day?

MAZZOLI: Very interesting that you bring it up, I do not know to this day whether I had any premonition that Dad wasn't going to have many opportunities to come down. I don't know whether that was the first opportunity that presented itself. We were about a month into the session by that time. Or whether it was just one of those times that he could get away from the work--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --and to, um, be able to come down there and spend a little time with me, and then there's an order of the day you do business here, and you, different, it's all established in the rules of order. 00:23:00What can be done at what time of the day? And there is a period of time when visitors are, are permitted to be introduced, uh, by the senators, their guests, sometimes family members, as in, in my case. So, it was, it was in that particular order of the day when visitors are recognized that, uh, I introduced my father. But, as to why he was there that day, I do not know. I do know that he came down in the middle of a snowstorm, which was the day we were, uh, sworn in. It was unusual for Kentucky to have a lot of snow, it, it was a very difficult snowstorm. But Dad drove down and drove back, uh, to, to, to, to be with me that day. So, he, he very much enjoyed all that was going on. And, um.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Of course, I, I may have mentioned about the wonderful photograph that was taken by Charlie Fentress, of, uh, then, little tiny Andrea, beautiful little girl with her very elegant hands and 00:24:00Michael looking--

ROMOND: -- -----------(??) yes--

MAZZOLI: --at this microphone like an engineer trying to figure out what made it work. (Romond laughs) And so, there were some wonderful memories and I went there just not long ago. I--

ROMOND: --yes(??)--

MAZZOLI: --I served just last summer as speaker, speaker, uh, the speaker, uh, uh. Jody Richards, uh--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --appointed me to the Legislative Ethics Commission, and so we meet in Frankfort every month. And, um, it gives me an opportunity to kind of walk around and see the familiar places, and so each time I see the Senate chamber and see that row of desks where I sat and my own desk actually it's, uh--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --it brings back many, many wonderful memories--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --of people that I've served with. And some of the iconic figures and when you think about Wendell Ford was our presiding officer, Dee Huddleston, both future senators, and Wendell a future 00:25:00governor, and Carroll Hubbard, a future US Representative. And, um, speakers of the House, Julian Carroll happens to be back in the state Senate, or in the state Senate, though he began his career in House and then was the speaker of the House. But, uh, Georgia Davis Powers, who is still alive and very active in local matters, was the first woman, uh, I believe, the, the first woman or, or at least the first woman of color to be elected to the state Senate.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And Hughes McGill and later his wife, uh, uh, who, who was elected when, when Hughes passed away. Uh, Mae Street Kidd, who was just featured in the Courier just the other day in their black history month. And, uh, so I had the privilege of working with some really interesting people over all the years, uh, not to mention the ones I worked on with in Washington.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

00:26:00

MAZZOLI: So, I, uh, am very, very thankful that Dad and Mother really gave me the opportunity because without the education and of course I mentioned earlier, without the armies' unwitting movement of me--

ROMOND: --yes--

MAZZOLI: --into the law and then eventually into politics, uh, none of this would have happen.

ROMOND: Yes. Was your mother still living when you were in the General Assembly?

MAZZOLI: She was, but Mother was not a traveler. Mother, like I say and Dad were very different. Mother--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --Mother did not like crowds, did not like to go into unexpected or situations that might provide some unexpected elements, where Dad loved adventure. That was what he thrived.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Matter of fact, uh, anytime there was a snow in Louisville, Dad would take his old beat up cars out, I think with the intention of getting stuck, so he'd have to dig himself out, or we'd have to go and rescue him, or something. Mother would, you know, by contrast stay at home and stay careful. So she did not go down to Frankfort for the swearing-in to the best of my recollection. Uh, she did come to 00:27:00Washington when I was--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --elected to the, uh, U.S. House, uh, which was for her a chore. I know she loved me and loved everything that was happening. Took a very active part, I must say, in my congressional race. Um, but she was just not one to get up and around too much. And so far as I know, and I've have to check my own records, such as they are, I'm not sure she ever came to Frankfort during the session.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Either one, either the '68 or the '70. I think she was content to be home. She had a lot of work to do anyway because Dad by his very nature was one that did not take care of things around the shop--I, I mean around the office.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Uh, Dad's whole role in life was to go on the job and do work. Uh, he didn't want to tally up the books, didn't want to send bills, didn't want to try to collect the money, didn't want to, um, do all the things that have to be done to keep the lights on and keep the doors open and so forth. But mother, that became her life. Which, because 00:28:00she was a very meticulous woman, uh, very beautiful, very fastidious, and very beautiful in her attire, but also very careful about the books and I mean demanded everything to be tallied up to the penny, so she had, um, she--

ROMOND: --it was a match for her talent--

MAZZOLI: --that's exactly right. (laughs)

ROMOND: Yeah. When you look back at your time in the General Assembly, what do you, uh, find is the, was the most satisfying part of your time there?

MAZZOLI: Well, I'll be honest with you I was then thirty-four, thirty- five years old. I had been to the Army. I had been to Notre Dame University spent four years there. Got great grades at Notre Dame, first in my law school class, the whole bit. I thought I was educated, right? Well, when I got to Frankfort and that thirty-eight in the Senate and the hundred over in the House, I realized how dismal my education was. Not that I needed to know about parsing a sentence or 00:29:00needed to know about grammar or syntax or astronomy, but what I needed to know about with people. And--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --and how people function. How people live in Harlan County and how people live in, down in Marshall County in the far west in the, uh, in the delta country? Uh, why, why would they stay there? Why, what, what sort of fulfillment did they get, get out of their lives? And then I realized that I'm asking stupid questions because those people are very fulfilled. Those people are completely happy. They, they love the commonwealth; they love their communities; they love what they're doing. And I learned about people who are farmers and people who are shopkeepers and people who are auctioneers and people who are medical doctors and people who are, uh, tradesmen. I've learned about people who like John Breckenridge was, was from a long distinguished lineage of Kentuckians and Virginians, and I learned about myself who 00:30:00came exactly one generation into this country, and we're sitting in the same place. (laughs) I mean, I learned a lot. So, probably the most satisfying part about my experience in the assembly was how much I learned about people--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --how much I learned about the commonwealth. I've got much, much more to go; I've only scratched the surface of even traveling within the commonwealth. But I learned so much about people and, and places and things and got to say, "Gracious, you know, if you're from Pike County, uh, you're, you're just like someone from Jefferson County. Your accent may not be quite the same and you made do something different for a living. You may own coal mines, or, or dig coal, or do something like that. But you raise your kids the same way, uh, you go to school, you try to learn, you're trying your best to make a living. You're trying to make the commonwealth better. So, I, I really continued my education. I still haven't completed it but I continued my education in Frankfort, I con-, continued it obviously at, 00:31:00uh, at Washington when I spent twenty-four years then with people from fifty states and five territories and distant countries of the world. And learned once again how similar we are in so many respects, even though we differ in language and what have you.

ROMOND: So it fed your curiosity, your natural curiosity.

MAZZOLI: Really, it was amazing. I, I just loved, I, I just loved to sit, like I may have mentioned, when I was a soldier, uh, when I was at Notre Dame and would, when I was a soldier as well, but when I was at Notre Dame and I would, uh, ride those long ten-hour bus rides, uh, from South Bend to Louisville before the airplanes and before interstate highways. And I would always ask questions of people, always interested in what they were doing, out pestering them probably, but most people were courteous enough to try to answer this, this kid's questions. Um, but I guess I did the same thing, probably not as intrusively, not as, as obviously was I, uh, asking people questions, 00:32:00but just by listening to them and just by being in their company and observing them, I was basically asking them about themselves, and I was learning from them. So, I guess the satisfying, of course, I, and with all of that came the, the, the two, um, the two awards that I, that I really treasure very much and I think they sort of came from this background of being interested in people and interested in, interested in issues. But my first session of the assembly, 1968, I was elected by the press corps as the outstanding freshman senator. Well, that carries a lot of baggage and maybe personality might've intruded on it, and so forth, but I think it also meant that they saw something that whatever I was doing must've fit into the overall dimensions and framework of public service.

00:33:00

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And, and of being a person who is, um, representing constituents and representing them well or certainly working hard to represent them. And then the second session, and the one that I particularly treasure, the first one could've been a personality, a popularity contest but the second one, but the outstanding senator, not freshman, but outstanding senator from the public's perspective, from the public standpoint.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And that one was premised on some of the issues I'd taken, some of the votes I'd cast, some of the speeches I may've delivered on the Senate floor, which, from the press's standpoint must've coalesced into something which suggested public interest. In effect, I was trying to think through the issues on the basis of, are they good for the people, not necessarily for the Democrats or the Republicans or for people who might normally support me or even my own constituents in Jefferson 00:34:00County.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: But were they issues that I was acting on and working with important to the people as a whole? And, and I treasure that; I still have it on my wall at home. And when I went to Washington, without thinking of that, I once again believed that that was the impulse that moved me through those twenty-four years--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --was trying to figure out as best I could, with the limitations I had, with my intelligence and how I can analyze things, and retain information, but within that context of, of making sure that when I did vote that, that I had at least some appreciation of how this was going to affect the people as I was able to determine that.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And that if I felt that this was not going to help the people as a whole, it may help my constituents in Louisville, or the, or the 00:35:00third, the Third Congressional District, but if it didn't have more than that, if it, if it were just that, then there may have been some element that I was missing.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: So I tried to look around to see just where it fit into the overall scheme of thing for people as a whole, and not just for Kentuckians, and not for people from the Third District, but people from Wyoming, or people from North Dakota, or people from Florida, or people from Hawaii, or, or people from the Virgin Islands, and Guam, wherever else that, uh, you know, our bills reach. And so, that I hope characterized what I did in Washington was somewhat with I began to do in Frankfort, which is really was my testing ground, my, my training ground.

Sure.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: Plus, you try to look at issues, not just as they affect your constituencies directly, but as they affect the broad line. And I hope I can remember today, but, um, the quote which I used to carry in my breast pocket for many years, but, uh, it's from, uh, Edmund Burke, 00:36:00one of the great English parliamentarians who represented the district around Bristol, England, but he said words to this general effect, "Your representative owes you not just his industry, but his judgment. And he betrays rather than serves you if he sacrifices his judgment to your opinion." Now first I have to say, this was before there were women in politics, so we have to say that if Burke were alive today he'd say it differently, but what he meant to say was there was that he, your representative owes you not just his or her, uh, industry, hard work, getting around work--

ROMOND: --um-hm, um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --but also his or her judgment. How do you think on things, what's, what's really going on? And then if you just simply adhere to the opinion of your constituents gleaned from polls or put your finger in the wind or however, you're not doing it right because it's 00:37:00got to be that--you can't ignore polls, you can't ignore the people's opinions, what they tell you at Walgreen's, or after church on Sunday when you're at home, but it's got to be that, plus your judgment. Well, your judgment is formed in your mother's womb; your judgment is formed in your family house; your judgment is formed by your background as a lawyer or a farmer or whatever; your, your judgment is formed by reading a lot, reading newspapers, reading committee reports; uh, your judgment is formed by talking to colleagues who've been involved in these issues or people who've had these issues affect them. But that's part of the formation of your judgment. So, that coupled with the opinion that you get from different sources: letters, phone calls, today e-mails, faxes. Um, those then come before you, and as I've somewhat said, it's like Shakespeare when the three witches throw all that stuff into the cauldron, and you let it, bubble, bubble, bubble, 00:38:00bubble, and then what comes to the surface? Well, what comes to the surface ultimately is your vote. And you hope that that vote reflects both opinion and judgment. And if it reflects just opinion, well, that's not an immoral way to run your shop, it's not wrong to vote the polls. I mean, that's, uh, unless there's a, an issue of, um, of, um, of ethics in there, or of conscience.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: But if there's absence(??) that, that's a fairly safe way to be a legislator.

ROMOND: But it's minus(??) an important ingredient.

MAZZOLI: That's, that's exactly right. And so, uh, there are people who insist that I am wrong; that what I really should do as an elected representative is to channel the view of my constituents. And, and so long as it's not a view that I find abhorrent or immoral, that's what my, my job is to just follow their views, and if 51 percent of 00:39:00my constituents are for it, that's what I vote. Well, I never felt it that way. And, and, and I, I felt, once again, there's a combination of their views, but also my own opinion or my judgment coming together on that fateful day when you got to vote. But then you also have one other aspect, and that is you can't just stop there and just go off to your country club and play golf, though I don't belong to any country clubs, and never have. Uh, you got to go back home, and you got to explain that vote.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: You got a stand in front of people who are very unhappy and say, "Hey look, 60 percent of your people are against gun control, 70 percent of your people are against busing, 100 percent of these people are for something, and you didn't vote that way."

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: "Um, you're, you're not our representative; you're a stranger." "Well, you know, just give me a chance. Give me a minute." And then I have something to tell them as to why what appears to be--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --abhorrent behavior, um, off-the-wall voting is neither. That it's once again my effort to understand their opinion, my effort 00:40:00to understand their needs, and my effort to understand the position of the community, but never absent some blending together in it of my judgment. And if I judgment is so vastly different than their opinion over a steady period of time, then, of course, I'll be looking for something else to do. I'll be looking for a plumbing job or I'll, I'll be looking to, you know--(laughs)--dig ditches--

ROMOND: --do something else--

MAZZOLI: --for a living. That's right. But on the other hand, if, if it's a coincidence most of the time or a lot of time and, and if those divergences can be explained and, and understood--

ROMOND: --um-hm--

MAZZOLI: --then maybe people will allow you to stay. And so that, that was my happy fate that I was able to, um, have a constituency that was able to understand or was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt or was willing to just forgive me, if nothing else--(Romond laughs)-- for those moments when I ventured, uh, off the--

00:41:00

ROMOND: --yes--

MAZZOLI: --reservation. Uh, but, uh, but at, uh, but at least to then still be my friends and, and even though we disagreed, not to be disagreeable about it. So.

ROMOND: Still trust you.

MAZZOLI: Uh, right. And, and I think that gets back to hard work. I think that gets back to not living above your means. Uh, people say, I, I may have said a lot of this might be repetitive but people say, "What's some of the nicest things people have ever, ever said about you?" And I said, "One of the nicest things people of ever said about me is, 'Ron, I'm glad to have you back home. We're happy to have you home.'"

ROMOND: Oh, yeah.

MAZZOLI: And, uh, reflecting on the idea that many politicians burn their bridges and, and fowl the nest and can't go back home, don't feel comfortable going back home, because they've lived the high life or they have pulled away from their friends and family, and forgotten their roots, and their roots whither and atrophy. Um, but in my case, and Helen because she was and is an intimate part of it for all these 00:42:00years, um, we never lived above our means. We never had to borrow money. Uh, that was part of my mother and father, they were very careful to pay their debts. They, they insisted on it for themselves. At the point where I many times saw my mother and dad in tears because people who had promised them money, they didn't send it in, and so they had to make a payroll, they had to pay a, a vendor. So I, I, we, we never spent beyond our means, we, uh, didn't therefore have to get into some pocket of some lobbyists, or some interest group or some friend, you know, because like, well, in the ------------(??), Polonius gives advice to Laertes, "Neither a lender nor a borrower be."

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And so people say, "I'm glad you're back home, you paid your bills. You, you know, you kept your house. We saw you on weekends. Uh, you haven't changed much. You've gotten older, grayer hair, but 00:43:00I mean, you're the same fellow we sent up there. You had the same taste." I continue to drive old cars. My car is this '85, uh, '85 Cavalier. And during Washington years the first car we ever brought together was a 1965 Rambler, which I drove until we left to come home in 1995. It was thirty years old and I was still driving the thing. Uh, people used to laugh about it. And the White House guards would sometimes, uh, put the mirror under it, you know, thinking it was, uh, you know, not the kind of car that would go inside the White House. (both laugh) Uh, and so I'd go down there for meetings driving this old Rambler and we had an equally old 1973 Chevrolet, uh, Malibu station wagon which we bought in '73 and which we drove until, uh, we had to come home in '95 or did come home in '95. And left it up there with Ken-, Kentuckians bought it, so at least, you know, for the moment 00:44:00I'm not sure where they are now if they're, uh, they're probably bailed up somewhere in some scrap yard.

ROMOND: Huh.

MAZZOLI: But, uh, they were entrusted to the hands of Kentuckians after we left to come back home but, uh, but the, um--

ROMOND: --which is fitting.

MAZZOLI: What, what, you know, again, the idea that we didn't really go big time. We, we never were.

ROMOND: Yeah.

MAZZOLI: And so people were happy to have you back home, uh, and I, and I treasure that. Another thing I'm very proud of--and that's not always the case either--getting back to taking care to pay your bills and that is in all of our campaigns, there never once was a vendor who wasn't paid. There never was a time when we stiffed anybody.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: There never was a time when we didn't pay a bill and said, you know, "I dare you to." We always paid our bills on time; we didn't, uh, run our campaigns in the red. So, all these little things that I find people note today and make, uh, positive reference to today are things 00:45:00I learned from my mother and father. I mean, fairly simple things.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: When you think on it, but also things that people forget about when they get to the upper echelon of the life, and you get into the celebrity field. Uh, it, it's easy to forget the lessons.

ROMOND: Um-hm.

MAZZOLI: And so, I'm glad I didn't. I'm, I'm very happy that I've been able to, uh, and was able to have a career like I had and leave it on my, first of all, on my own terms with my reputation intact with all the bills paid, so to speak, with people saying, "Come on home, Ron. We're, we're happy to have you."

ROMOND: Um-hm. What led you to run for office or, uh, the U.S., to be a U.S. representative?

MAZZOLI: It might--(laughs)--it might've been just plain out and out craziness. (laughs)

ROMOND: Oh, craziness.

MAZZOLI: Just like maybe being, running for the Senate was crazy, too. (Romond laughs) Uh, actually, it was it's what happens when you're 00:46:00young and when you've got a lot of energy and a lot of ambition.

ROMOND: Oh.

MAZZOLI: And when you're doing something that you enjoy doing and people tell you that you're doing it pretty well. And you think you're doing pretty well, which was to say the way my Senate career had been set up. There was an interim race that I lost when I ran for mayor. I think I talked about that a little bit. But that taught me a lot about my community in which I'd lived all those years but didn't really know it. It taught me about myself and how to speak, how to stand in front of a sometimes hostile group, and, and still manage to--

[End of interview.]