Someone was at the door.

A balding guy with white fringe.  Wearing running clothes.

He stuck his hand out when I opened the door.

Solid handshake.

“Hi, I’m Carl and I’m running for mayor.”

That’s how Carl campaigned for mayor of Rome, New York.  He was a runner.  And every day on his run, he knocked on doors all over the city.  “I want to be your next mayor and I want to know what I can do for you.”  And people would tell him what they’d like to see done around town.  And when the time came, they voted for him, and after he became mayor, he actually made good on his promises to all those people he’d encountered on his daily runs.

While mayor, he and his delightful wife Susie purchased a defunct town newspaper and re-imagined it.  It would be a paper with only good stories about the community.  And they stayed true to their vision.  Everything about Carl and Susie dripped integrity.

Judy and I met Carl and Susie at an opening night performance for two of my original plays.  We didn’t have high hopes.  All of our publicity had been stymied.  A blizzard whipped the weather into a fury about 90 minutes before show time.  No cars showed up in the parking lot.  We were set to cancel and call it a night.  And then 2 cars plowed their way into the parking lot.  Total of 5 people.  I looked at Judy and she looked at me.

“Okay, they made the trip, so let’s go out and kill it.”

And we did.  For all 5 people in attendance.

Two days later, a prominent article appeared in the town newspaper.  Carl had written all about our show and how good we were and how people needed to support us.  That single notice opened the way for 5 years of Combat Theater and many sold out houses.

Just before our 10th wedding anniversary, Carl announced he was running for the New York state senate.  A few weeks after that, he quietly dropped out.

Carl and Susie were at our wedding anniversary – a balmy evening spent swilling champagne in our cozy back yard.

There came a time when Carl and I ended up sitting alone on the edge of my porch.  I found my moment and asked.

“Carl, why’d you drop out?  When I think of someone running for office that has integrity and intelligence and kindness, you’re that person.  You’d be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. We need you.”

He smiled that gentle smile of his and shook his head.

“I thought so, too, Doug.”

“So what happened?”

“From the moment I announced, I got death threats.  All anonymous.  In my mailbox.  In my email.  Phone messages.  And people who actually came into my yard and slipped notes under my front door.  Calling me out as a Jew.  Threatening over and over to kill me and my family.  That was enough.  If it was just me, that’s one thing, but when they start threatening my loved ones, that’s enough.  I’m not going to put my family through that.”

And that was that.  I got schooled.  And I’ve thought about it a lot ever since.

So the next time you wonder to yourself why we can’t seem to find anyone with integrity to run for public office, think about Carl.  A man who possessed everything you’d want in a candidate.  But soulless trolls silenced him.

God, man.

Let’s find our civility.

Let’s find our decency.

And somewhere down the road, we might find our Carl.