EDITORIAL FOR January 21-23, 2017
I’m CAVEMANager Paul Lotsof. I was saddened to read of the passing of Dick Hamilton who died last Saturday. Hamilton was one of the few Benson public officials that I was able to get along with. Although we didn’t agree on a lot of issues, Hamilton was a man whom you simply had to respect. I respected him because I knew that he sincerely loved Benson and wanted nothing but the best for his town.
Dick moved to Benson as a small child. His father, Bill, was a pharmacist who founded Hamilton’s Drug Store in downtown Benson. The elder Hamilton got interested in community affairs and served on the city council as well as mayor. Dick decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. During the 1950s he attended the University of Arizona and got a degree in pharmacy. Dick took over the family drug store and also got interested in local politics. He served several terms as a city council member, was Mayor and later Vice Mayor.
One of the things that I really admired about Dick Hamilton was his ability to spot a ripoff from a mile away. During city council meetings he’d go through the bills that had been submitted for payment and he’s ask staff members to explain a line entry. If Dick wasn’t satisfied with the explanation he’d suggest that the bill not be paid until such time as it could be justified. Today, our council doesn’t even look at the bills and it’s no wonder that the city is run with terrible inefficiency.
Over the past ten years or so, Benson’s population has hardly increased but the size of the city government has mushroomed. I’m sure that Dick wasn’t pleased as he watched the city’s budget skyrocket.
There were some rough moments in Hamilton’s political career. He was often involved in feuds between the city government and the Benson Chamber of Commerce. Things got heated in the early 1990s when the chamber hired a woman named Jane Kennedy Holehan to be the chamber’s manager. Jane went around town and bad-mouthed the city attorney and other city officials. The city council reacted by taking away the chamber’s funding, in an apparent attempt to force the chamber to get rid of Jane. One day Jane showed up for a meeting with Mayor Richard Saenz and Dick Hamilton. The meeting was at Hamilton’s store. During the meeting, Hamilton suggested that Jane quit criticizing the city and all would be fine. But what Hamilton didn’t know was that Jane had a tape recorder under her blouse. She filed a civil rights suit against the city. Fortunately for Hamilton the judge dismissed the case.
One of my favorite memories of Dick Hamilton was an incident that took place during a council meeting. At the time the mayor was David DiPeso. I don’t recall the issue that was being discussed but the discussion was clearly going nowhere and there was no consensus among the council. Mayor DiPeso pointed out that the issue was unlikely to be settled so he announced that he was moving on to the next agenda item. As he began to read the next agenda item, Hamilton, completely out of order, shouted to the mayor, “No we are NOT going to move on to the next agenda item. We’re going to act on this item and we’re going to resolve it tonight!”. DiPeso meekly backed down and Hamilton got his way. And the matter did get resolved that evening.
That’s the kind of guy Hamilton was.
I remember another incident that had an element of humor. Hamilton was always thinking of ways to put Benson on the map. He noticed that the Tucson television stations rarely put Benson on their weather maps so he asked then-city manager Paul Nordin to contact the television stations and ask them to put Benson on the weather maps. At the next council meeting Hamilton asked Nordin, “Have you done anything about the weather?” Nordin smiled and responded, “No Dick, there are some things that are simply beyond my control”.
My favorite Dick Hamilton memory happened right after some newly elected council members had been administered the oath of office. Hamilton admonished them, “Now that you’ve been sworn in, get ready to be sworn at.”
Dick Hamilton was a class act. Benson could use a few more like him.
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions you’ve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone else’s. If you’d like a copy of this editorial go to the CAVE web site. We’re at CAVEFM.com. That’s CAVEFM.com