Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Breaking: Former state legislator Bill Konopnicki passes away

Picture courtesy the Eastern Arizona Courier

Republican former legislator Bill Konopnicki passed away this evening.

The Eastern Arizona Courier published a story early Wednesday detailing Konopnicki's rapidly deteriorating health due to non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.

Twitter is alive with remembrances of him from all across the political spectrum, and the non-political world as well.

Robbie Sherwood, a former reporter for the Arizona Republic, remembers Konopnicki as "old school" in that he came up through local service organizations, not party organizations, and that perspective affected his activities at the Capitol.

He was known as someone who was there to solve problems and "get things done", not to hold to a partisan ideological position, no matter how counterproductive that position.  His primary interest was in working for the best interests of his district and for Arizona.

Along with the late Jake Flake (R) and Jack Brown (D), they formed a trio of legislators who brought a small town sensibility to the lege (they represented northeastern Arizona; mostly small towns and ranches there).  As such, he (and they) were considered too conservative to be Democrats and too moderate to be darlings of the hardcore Rs who have taken control of the Capitol in recent years.

However, many of those from both sides of the partisan aisle with longer memories respect him as one of the last "true gentlemen" at the Capitol, as demonstrated by the outpouring of condolences for Konopnicki's family and friends.

According to his last legislative biography, he was born in Detroit and his family moved to Arizona when he was 5 years old.  He received his higher education at Arizona Western College, ASU, and U of A, before going on to operate a number of small businesses in Safford and the surrounding area over the next few decades.

One of Konopnicki's personal points of pride was that as the owner of some McDonald's franchises in Safford and eastern Arizona, he gave many of his neighbors their first "real" jobs.

Sherwood posted one of his memories of Konopnicki on his Facebook page.  It is reprinted here with permission -

Farewell to my friend former Rep. Bill Konopnicki who passed away this evening. A tremendously nice guy but tough as well. One lasting memory from following him on the campaign trail: on the day of his hometown Safford parade, Bill was suffering from an impacted tooth. He was miserable, hadn't slept and was in a lot of pain. He needed to see a doctor, but in small-town politics you don't miss an event like this. So Bill walked the entire mile-long route smiling, waving and shaking hands, all while carrying one of his little granddaughters in his arms. He was adored and respected by his constituents, embodied service before self and will remain an inspiration.

Koponicki harkens back to a day in Arizona politics where politicians could disagree without being disagreeable, and when there was a function middle at the Capitol that could actually solve problems. 

He will be missed greatly.

My condolences go out to Konopnicki's family and friends on their loss.

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