The Social Activist
Last December, when Raymond Wirth heard about the death of an 8-year-old Seagoville boy who was hit by a truck whose driver failed to stop behind an unloading school bus, it made him so sad that he vowed to personally do something about it.
That’s when he wondered why school buses couldn’t be outfitted with flashing stop-sign arms that swing out to the left in front of traffic to warn cars that children are getting off. Moving stop signs are illegal in Texas, so Wirth, with the help of state Rep. Chris Harris of Arlington, set about convincing the Texas Legislature to make an exception.
If the bill is passed, as it is expected to be, Wirth’s Adopt-A-Bus program will make money available to state school districts for the implementation of such signs. He’s estimating that it will take $5 to $6 million to outfit all the buses. Wirth, the owner of Leasing Resources, Texas’ largest independent vehicle leasing company, says he’s already raised just about as much money as he will need from owners of car dealerships around the state. “My main goal now is to show the state of Texas that the business community is willing to stand behind good ideas,” he says.
Wirth says he’s learned two things about working with the state Legislature: “One, it takes a real dedicated person to be a legislator. And two, it takes a person who is financially stable. So either they’ve got to be born into money and be young and aggressive enough to have the desire to do something, or they have to build a corporation and have it stable enough that they can leave it for six months. I think that’s unfortunate, because there are a lot of people who would make excellent legislators but who can’t afford it.”
Wirth, 36, says that he and his wife plan to start a family of their own soon, and he’s currently building a house in Frisco complete with stables for polo horses. He wants to see the flashing stop signs put on the buses his children will someday ride to school.
“I’m going to go the Frisco Independent School District the day this bill is approved and personally write them a check for the amount,” he says.
The Campaign Manager
Whether Teddie Garrigan likes it or not, she’s made a name for herself. The unpretentious, outspoken young woman who chaired the campaign for Mayor Starke Taylor’s successful re-election says she can hardly believe that the election is over and there aren’t any more crises to handle.
Sitting in the back yard of her Lakewood home, she curls up in a chair wearing a sweatshirt, jeans and hot pink socks with dirty tennis shoes. “You know, this is the first time I’ve really sat down and thought about what happened in the election,” she says, shaking her head. “I think I’d do it again.”
Taylor asked Garrigan to head his campaign staff last January at a Washington, D.C., Super Bowl football party following the presidential inauguration. “I don’t know why he picked me; I never asked him. He’s open to new ideas. He looks for the people who will be the most effective. I was sort of shocked when he asked me.”
Garrigan says that one of the most frustrating aspects of the mayor’s campaign was the fact that he refused to put his campaign duties before his ongoing city duties. “That’s when people started calling him the ’phantom candidate,’” Garrigan recalls.
Despite the fact that she isn’t as well-known as many campaign chairmen whose names carry a lot of weight in the community, Garrigan isn’t a political novice. She was finance director for both U.S. Rep. Steve Bart-lett’s first bid for Congress and for Taylor’s 1982 campaign.
Garrigan, 35, who has a 13-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter, says it’s difficult to describe the volunteer work she does. Much of it involves raising money and organizing other volunteers to do chores such as stuffing mailers and invitations. “I think I have more freedom being a volunteer. You can always take your ball and go home. I don’t advocate that attitude for other people, but it certainly is a freedom.” -A.E.
The Science Fiction Writer
Warren Norwood is a space cadet grown up, a salesman-turned-poet who at an early age learned the power of prose.
In elementary school, his Poe-inspired essays shocked his teachers, and his romantic poems captured the attention of his high school sweethearts.
Today, as a science fiction writer, Norwood populates his world with green-skinned goddesses and three-breasted heroines. The macabre and the romantic play a role in almost every Norwood book.
He didn’t write professionally until after he had graduated from North Texas State University, completed a stint in Vietnam and managed a bookstore chain. Today, he is the author of eight books and has a sequel in the works. Norwood says he would like to try something a little more down-to-earth than his science fiction series The Windhover Tapes, but for now, the biannual royalty checks from that book give him to freedom to write without having to moonlight.
In 1977, Norwood says, he led a one-man assault on the world of poetry, with 400 submissions that led to only four sales and $25.
Finally, he decided to aim at a market that was financially lucrative. To tap the science fiction market, Norwood says, he had to come up with something that was different from the usual space operas that line bookstore shelves.
“The character in my first book was based on a Victorian poet who is set down 7,000 years in the future,” Norwood says. “The character reveals himself through a computerized journal that he keeps.” The concept was so offbeat that Norwood solicited 10 publishers before Bantam Books bought the book and commissioned Norwood to do a sequel.
For Norwood, a novel’s gestation time is three to six months before he’s ready to start serious writing. During this germinating period, characters transform from vague images into vibrant characters who come alive as individual personalities, Norwood says. “Every realistic character has to be a composite of yourself and others you know,” Norwood says. “Otherwise, the characters, even if they are aliens, wouldn’t appear real.”
Although Norwood says he’s starting to get comfortable as a science-fiction novelist, he also supplements his income by teaching writing at Tarrant County Junior College.
Writing, he tells his students, is a craft that, like any job, requires hard work. “It just happens that my job is what I love to do,” he says. “I work harder for myself than I’ve ever worked for anyone.”
Dr. Ron Anderson
The Parkland Hospital CEO
Strolling down the corridors of Parkland Memorial Hospital last March and talking to patients with 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace, Dr. Ron Anderson seemed to all the world like a man with a cause. For a moment, he was in the limelight-not something he’s particularly comfortable with. But the 60 Minutes segment gave him a chance to let off some steam about the mounting problems of caring for the poor.
Anderson, 37, was named president and chief executive officer of Dallas County’s public hospital in 1982 and concurrently was named chairman of the Texas Board of Health by Gov. Mark White. Those jobs take him regularly to Austin and Washington, D.C., to lobby for health care legislation and to deliver the message to other hospitals that Parkland is one of the nation’s strongest public hospitals, despite the financial burden of caring for indigent patients.
“I really didn’t want to do this job a few years ago,” Anderson says of the Parkland position. “I’m very glad I did it, though, since a lot has been accomplished because I was in a position to make some changes. I was a physician, and I enjoyed it. I liked to teach and do research, and I liked the hands-on patient care,” he says. “But I found that I couldn’t solve the problems that I needed to try to solve, like indigent care. I had to go to a higher level to change the system in order to take care of patients I will never see.”
Anderson was nearly run out of town on a rail a few years back when he went on a rampage, pointing fingers at private hospitals that, he claims, were “dumping” poor patients on Parkland, causing the public hospital to nearly buckle under the physical and financial strain. Anderson is now more optimistic about the fate of public hospitals in Texas because, he says, state legislators see the reason and eventual savings behind solving indigent health care problems through preventive tactics such as better education, prenatal care and housing.
“There’s been no strategic plan,” he says. “That is where I think I have been able to help create this environment. We take one step at a time and fund what is most critical. It’s no longer funding the emergency room; it’s funding preventive measures.”