Wednesday’s Chippewa Valley appearance by Vice President Mike Pence is the fourth time I’ve had the opportunity to cover the appearance of either a sitting president or vice president as a reporter for the Leader-Telegram.
Pence was at Precision Pipeline in rural Eau Claire on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign and spoke before more than 200 invited guests at a warehouse at the business.
Interested in learning what life is like for local journalists covering such an event?
Even though Pence was originally scheduled to take the stage at 4 p.m., television and newspaper photographers had to drop off their cameras by 11:30 a.m. so they could be screened by security.
Most of the media covering the event returned to Precision Pipeline by 3 p.m.
First, we had to be checked with a metal detecting wand by a sheriff’s deputy after having all the contents of our pockets examined by a Secret Service agent.
The agent was particularly interested in a cylindrical portion of a keychain I got years ago from an Eau Claire car dealer. The cylindrical portion is about an inch long.
I don’t know what the agent thought that cylindrical portion could be, but he examined it closely for at least a full minute.
We were then escorted into a lunchroom at the company for about 15 minutes before being led to the back of the warehouse, which was about 60 feet from the stage.
By the way, the television in the lunchroom was on and tuned in to Fox News.
As the day went on, the media was informed Pence may not take the stage until closer to 5 p.m.
Several speakers preceded the remarks madeby Walker and Pence, and the main attraction — Pence — actually took the stage at about 5 p.m.
The event concluded at about 5:30 p.m.
I feel sorry for anybody who was driving at the Highway T and Highway 29 interchange when the Secret Service were whisking Pence back to the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.
For those who had no idea that the vice president was here probably wondered why the interchange was blocked to traffic and several squad cars were in the area with their emergency lights activated.
I also covered President Reagan when he addressed an outdoor gathering in Oshkosh in the 1980s.
I covered Vice President Dan Quayle when he made a speech at Wausau West High School in the early 1990s.
But the most interesting one I had was when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was in Eau Claire in March 1988 campaigning for his subsequent election as president that November.
Before he left town, Bush held interview sessions with local media in small conference rooms at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport.
Two 30-minute interview sessions were held. One session was for television reporters in one room and a second session for newspaper and radio reporters was in a second room.
After my particular session was over, I stood up and walked over to Bush to thank him for this interview opportunity.
As we were shaking hands, the vice president told me to turn around. I did so with an immediate flash from a camera hitting me from the back side of the room.
A White House photographer was also in the room and, after the interview session, took photos of each reporter posing with the vice president.
Because I wasn’t prepared, I wondered how awful my particular photo looked.
Several weeks later, the photo arrived in the mail. It turned out much better than I thought it would. I still have it to this day.