Sunday, June 03, 2007

First time in the paper not for racketeering

Good Morning Boys and Girls,

I hope everyone is having a great Sunday. The editorial came out today, and so I'm copying it here. The few corrections I have are:

1) The Academy is in Manhattan, not Queens

2) My friends from high school came up with "Most likely to be a Civil Servant." Trinity, not Buckley. If Buckley had known my career path, I would have be expelled and then shot, and then asked to cater for my former classmates parties.

Without further ado.....

At your service

Meet Graham Campbell, a top 10 kind of guy

So I'm sitting in Fenway with a friend a few weeks ago watching Wakefield get lit up by Detroit. I overhear the big red-headed guy next to me tell someone he's going to Paraguay.

I can't resist: Wasn't that home to General Stroessner, one of Latin America's hall of fame baddies? The hide-out of Joseph Mengele and all those crazy, zany Nazis after the war? And, help me out here, is Asuncion its capital or Montevideo?

Yes, yes, and Asuncion, the man tells me. His name is Graham Campbell, and it turns out he's traveling there in his capacity as training manager at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Paraguay is the sister state of the Massachusetts National Guard. Who knew? The Guard lends it expertise to help train the military and civilians in Paraguay how to handle floods and droughts and things. Part of that expertise includes Campbell. They're coming up here this week; Campbell goes down there next month.

(The plot thickens. Every state National Guard in America has a partner country: Connecticut has Uruguay; New Hampshire, El Salvador; Vermont, Macedonia; and Maine, Montenegro. Rhode Island laughs all the way to the Coppertone with the Bahamas. )

Anyway, by the time Sox reliever Brendan Donnelly gets the ball in relief, Campbell and I are deep into his emergency training work based at the MEMA bunker in Framingham. He also talks about an earlier job helping to run training exercises for the bioterrorism program at the Department of Public Health before coming to MEMA last fall.

He followed a woman here from Manhattan in 2004. (It's always a woman.) He's all of 30 now, and I ask him what in his background qualified him to do any of this stuff. "Some first-responder experience," he says. Where?


Campbell, it turns out, was a cop on the beat there for five years straight out of college. Asked for Harlem while in the police academy out in Queens. It is then that he mentions he grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Campbell had buried his lead, as we say in the news biz.

He was, in fact, an uber- preppy who followed the path of Upper East Side cubs beginning with posh private schools (Buckley and Trinity ). He zagged slightly to Vassar and then hard to the NYPD, shocking friends and family. His father was a banker. His brother's in investments. He was the black Merino.

("Banker" was Campbell's nickname up at the 28th Precinct -- "The Two Eight" between 122 d and 123 d streets and Eighth Avenue. When he and his colleagues were filing out their 401(k) forms, he recalls, "There were 19 guys around my desk asking, 'Aggressive growth?' ")

Campbell wanted to be an officer, not a white-shoe lawyer, from the time he was 5. Loved the sirens. At Buckley, voted "Most Likely to be a Civil Servant." Became a volunteer firefighter at Vassar. Took the police test before his senior year and went to the academy after graduation.

Later, a funny thing happened. Kith and kin decided what he had done was very cool. He became a rock star among friends. He met a terrific group of guys on the force. What mattered to him most was that they not dismiss him as a dilettante. "I wanted them to say, 'I'll go through a door for you.' " They did.

He and his partner saw a lot. They answered a call from a woman who screamed that her boyfriend had hit her. They found the guy and he admitted he had. Then Campbell noticed a knife sticking out of his back. He had hit her after she had stabbed him.

Campbell did drone work like prisoner transport. He was shot at. Did duty at protests. "You don't stay a bleeding heart liberal for long in the NYPD," he says.

His first day at police academy, he recalls, an officer told the recruits, "Ten percent of you are born to be cops, 80 percent will do a good job. The other 10 percent should never be cops."

Within a year, Campbell realized he belonged in the 80 percent. "I was good, not great," he says. " I wanted to be in that 10 percent in whatever I do. Here, I feel I do top 10 percent work."

I go see him at the MEMA bunker. I descend a Dead Man Walking concrete ramp with a series of turns. (Radiation apparently can't do corners.) The bunker is a square thing, built in the early 1960s 40 feet below ground, lacking all distinction.

Graham Campbell, I conclude, is more interesting than his job, however important. But those little snots at Buckley were right. The man was meant to be a civil servant. Could be a fine one.

He hasn't caved for law school and big bucks. He's getting a master's in public administration at Suffolk. Could have done it at Harvard but, again, he's a zagger.

He makes me think of Harry Spence, whom Governor Deval Patrick just fired as commissioner of the Department of Social Services. Spence was one of a vanishing breed of public servants who made a career taking on for peanuts one thankless job after another.

I'm a big fan of Harry Spence. I'll be a big fan of Graham Campbell, too, if he stays public.

Sam Allis can be reached at


Steve said...

So, yeah, it's possible that some portion of Allis' article may mention you. :)

Good Christ, son. There are worse situations for a guy on the public payroll than to have reporters think well of you. Excellent work.

Unknown said...

Mr. Campbell, you rock. :)

Anonymous said...

holy shit.

would it be weird for you to laminate copies of Boston Globe articles and distribute them to the hottest girls in bars?

I think this is your shot Campbell.

Hero to the Masses said...

Tom, it's funny you mention that. I was thinking the very same thing. I think this is the thing I need. My shot indeed sir.

Tory Davis said...

So glad to see you subverting the dominant paradigm, Cracker.

And as a lady who has been hit on in bars in a variety of creepy and/or tired ways (it's true, except for the 'lady' part), you'd totally score points by handing out required reading.
My thought process would go something like this: Whoa, this guy is living the Kinko's dream! He actually *laminated* an article about himself for me to read while giggly and buzzed in a dark, loud, crowded establishment. I have to make out with him right now!

The Ten Angry Men said...

Great article, but i was disappointed they didn't draw your head in one of those woodcut things like in the Wall St. Journal.

And you missed your opportunity- had you moved fast enuff, you could have moved in on some hotties eating brunch and reading the Sunday paper on the day of your article.

alohab said...

you're famous! really awesome article :)!

Anonymous said...

Waaaaaait a minute. If Buckley was supposed to be Trinity, then that guy just called us little snots. Sigh. So true.
GCC for mayor, 2012.

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