Illustration by Doug Thompson
"I’d love to meet you, Janet"
That’s the subject line in a fundraising email I received from Democratic vice presidential nominee and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.
“... When the team at HQ asked me if I was interested in meeting you,” the email reads, “I jumped at the chance.”
Really, Tim? I’ll bet not.
If Tim Kaine knew who was on the receiving end of that email, I’m pretty sure he’d reconsider.
Since his selection by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for the VP spot, I have heard quite a few brush-with-greatness “Tim stories” from acquaintances and colleagues: that time they marched with him at a pro-choice rally or spent weeks getting to know him for in-depth profile pieces.
They are all glowing stories about a super nice guy, and I’ve got nothing to shatter that. Dude’s nice. Period. But everyone else’s stories want you to believe there was a positive connection or relationship, even fleeting, with the man who may end up on the world’s most important on-deck circle.
If Tim (let’s face it ... that’s what we all call him) should become VP, I’d love to have one of those stories in my pocket. That time we split a sailor sandwich at Coppola’s over an interview or something, but no. My Tim story is that for half of 1999, I was an enormous pain in his ass.
That year, Tim Kaine was mayor of Richmond and I was a reporter at Style Weekly. I had spoken with him many times for a variety of stories. He was famous with reporters for being incredibly accessible, reachable at all times and willing to answer anything.
But during those months, I began investigating alleged horrific conditions and practices at the Richmond Animal Shelter.
There were tales of inhumane euthanasia, puppies falling down drain pipes, live dogs being found in a pile of dead dogs, filthy kennels, starving dogs and intimidation of employees. You know, a real feel-good story.
It was becoming a public relations disaster for the city. One of its smallest departments was commanding an inordinate amount of attention when murder rates were still high, as were tensions with Chesterfield County over a regional transit system, and schools (as always) needed more attention. Yet, the animal shelter, with an $800,000 operating budget, was the mayor’s almost daily headache.
Few city officials would talk to me. The city would not allow anyone from the shelter to speak to the press. So it was mainly Tim, always taking my calls, often returning them after hours. Was that chewing I heard on the other end? Maybe.
He was always cordial, if a little dodgy, but as time wore on and my inquiries became almost daily, I could hear that certain mix of panic and exasperation in his voice usually reserved for calls from a collection agency or your mother-in-law. Of course, I don’t remember any verbatim conversations and I’m not a mind reader, but if I did and if I were, I imagine it was something like this.
“Hey, Tim. It’s Janet Giampietro from Style. How’s it going?”
“Oh ... (you again) hey, Janet. (Heavy sigh). How are you?" (I’ll ask but really, really couldn’t care less.)
“Good, thanks. I need to ask you about this document that’s surfaced ..."
(Good God, woman! Can’t you ask me about something important? I don’t know, crime? Education? Lee Young going to jail?)
“Does the document confirm to you that the shelter manager was lying about ...”
“Well, I’m not sure I can comment on that ..." (Janet, do you have a life? Are you aware of the concept of fun? Are there people out there who love you? If so, how do they manage it?)
I badgered that man from March to August. Eventually, the shelter was cleaned up, literally and figuratively. And Tim got his chance to focus on the city’s biggest problems, like crime, collapsing schools and trying to make sense out of then City Manager Calvin Jamison.
Maybe for old times’ sake, if he and Clinton are elected in November, I’ll start calling him again to ask about, say, the National Agricultural Library. Really blow the lid off that joint once and for all. Then Tim can relive those simpler times when his biggest problem was, well, me.
It may not be an epic “I-spent-an-entire-day-cleaning-up-the-river-with-the-vice-president” story, but it’s the only one I’ve got. So I’ll admit that I am rooting for Tim to become the next vice president of the United States because, let’s face it, I have zero Mike Pence stories.