Over the last few years, I’d heard some “interesting” but yet very positive things about Vernon Parker. He is currently serving as the Mayor of Paradise Valley after being elected by a record breaking number of votes in a community that is predominantly white. His Councilmen peers apparently realized his ability to make things happen and appointed him as Mayor of what is probably the highest income per capita community in the State of Arizona.
But prior to his election to Town Council, not many people know that Vernon has a compelling life story. Parker was raised in a gang and drug-infested neighborhood in Long Beach California where many of his peers never made it out of high school or ended up dead or in a lifestyle of trouble. Young Vernon Parker was able to avoid that typical path but it wasn’t without a lot of sacrifice and determination. After graduating from the same high school portrayed in the movie Freedom Writers, Parker went on to college at California State Long Beach and ultimately, to law school at Georgetown University. That’s where he also met his wife, Lisa.
Although Parker has been around the political arena for some time, you wouldn’t know it. He doesn’t match the typical politician whose ego usually overshadows his actions. He’s more interested in getting things done than trying to be somebody bigger than himself. He’s worked in the shadows of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (prior to his nomination) and he was appointed and unanimously confirmed by the US Senate to the position of Assistant Secretary to the US Department of Agriculture’s Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush.
In term of his community involvement, Parker has demonstrated that he practices what he preaches. He has served on the boards of several faith-based, service-oriented non-profit organizations including the Salvation Army National Advisory Board, the Greater Phoenix Salvation Army Advisory Board and the Christian Family Care Agency (adoption services). But one thing that most people don’t know about Vernon Parker is that he was a pastor. A few years ago, he was approached by the congregation of Calvary Church of the Valley (Paradise Valley) and asked to serve as interim pastor while the church conducted a search for their permanent pastor. Little did he know that he would end up serving there for over two years. It would become one of the most humbling life experiences he’s had.
Now he’s seriously considering answering a higher secular calling and it’s not because he’s fixated on political power. Vernon Parker strongly believes its time to rebuild the Republican party and return to the principles that attracted so many people like himself. Over the last several months, he’s watched the intra-party budget battle take place as those involved simultaneously position themselves to electorally challenge each other down the road. He believes that the GOP’s budget battle should never have gone this far and that the current Governor is almost entirely to blame. Parker wants to shift the focus back to bringing the party together and unifying behind the principles that made it great in the first place. That means fiscal and cultural responsibility.
On the issues, Parker is both a cultural and fiscal conservative. He opposes raising taxes, supports a balanced budget and believes government should be more efficient with tax dollars. He is pro-life, supports traditional marriage, securing the border and school choice. He proved his conservative credentials on the gubernatorial campaigns of Matt Salmon and Len Munsil.
If Vernon Parker enters the race for Governor, it will likely rock the political establishment. He won’t follow the normal stepping-stone approach to higher office that typifies a Terry Goddard or Dean Martin. Rather, he will follow a similar path that led him out of the childhood ghetto. Already, support for a Parker candidacy is growing and it’s mostly driven by supporters who know Vernon Parker, know his leadership style, know what he’s accomplished. But even more guttural, believe that the traditional politics need to change. They believe Vernon Parker is the one man to do it.
Yes, a Vernon Parker candidacy would shake up the political establishment in Arizona. His entry into the gubernatorial political process would be a fresher and dare I say, unifying approach to prior political campaigns. Can he beat Terry Goddard in a General Election? You bet! Democrats won’t quite know how to handle someone whose life experiences don’t follow the typical political prescription for someone of color or whose family’s legacy entitles them to walk into higher office.
Republicans may also see his candidacy as a success story in the making and an opportunity to dispel any racial myths or stereotypes oftentimes propogated by liberals. And Vernon Parker may very well be the conservative Republican version of Barack Obama on an ideological scale.
Ultimately, his success story may very well be Arizona’s success story.
Parker is likely to announce his intentions in the weeks ahead but in the meantime, he’s continuing his commitment to the people who elected him in Paradise Valley. Perhaps his faithfulness in little things may ultimately lead to bigger? We may find out very soon.