We Planned For The Apocalypse
There is no denying conducting Caucuses across Nebraska, done completely by volunteers is a heavy lift. It is a lot of work; blood, sweat and tears. But it is also a lot like birthing a baby. Something that seems like a good idea turns into hard work and sleepless nights which is all forgotten in the end with the completion of a successful Caucus.
Four days before our Caucus in LD8 we found out we didn’t have a site. For the next few hours there was a mad scramble to find a place, even the park across the street from our original location. I got an estimate on fencing and a port a potty just in case. Then Leslie Wiseman, Executive Director of Douglas County Democrats secured Benson High….their cafeteria with a capacity of 250. Then came the getting out the word, the location change. Both campaigns jumped and made phone calls, along with bombing Facebook. The good news, the locations were separated by a parking lot something we could manage on the fly.
The cafeteria was about the same size as the original site at Monroe Middle School but we were still concerned about turnout and not having enough room. We had carefully watched the Iowa Caucus turnout and Minnesota and Colorado trying to get a handle on what we could expect. Realistically it looked like at least 1200 caucus goers in a space for 250, so we had no choice but to plan for the apocalypse.
Printed up all our signage, brought a printer and scanner with us because you just never know when you will run out of forms and we did. Extra paper and pencils. Our LD Caucus Chair, and my son Bill Clark toured the site and made A, B and C plans to handle what might be an epic turnout. We had the cafeteria and could use a common area for another 300 or so, but after that there was no where to put caucusers. Fortunately the weather was nice and the parking lot looked like a viable option. Essentially running three caucuses in one which presented volunteer problems, there is only so much you can plan for with an apocalypse.
When we arrived in the morning our volunteer coordinator Tom Tilden was there with a virtual army of volunteers, we got set up and he ran them thru one last training and answered any questions. We opened a little late, bout 8:15 and the line was steady. The cafeteria filled up with Bernie people and we had to move some over behind the Hillary space. By 9:30 both the cafeteria and common space were full. Bill thought to check to line which was now around the building and told the volunteers everything inside was full and we were now using the parking lot, move them in and send them back out to assemble there. Additional volunteers were pressed into service so 30 became in the end about 45. About a dozen volunteers walked the line outside with clipboards and forms looking for unregistered voters to help speed the process.
When the end of the line was marked at 10:10 there were still close to 400 people in line. Our volunteers got them thru registration and ready to go in about 20 minutes. They helped one another and adjusted what they were doing to accommodate our changing landscape, there was no bottle neck, ever.
The biggest problem with running what is essentially three caucuses is you need all the leaders and ancillary people in triplicate. We were fortunate a number of people who stepped up to make this work City Councilman Pete Festersen, Caucus Chair along with Mark Hoeger and Marc Kraft. State Senator Burke Harr become Co-chair to help Pete, Sandy Skorniak helped Mark Hoeger and Judy Schweikart County Rules Chair, helped Mark Kraft who lost his voice. Lorraine Chang Rules Chair filled in where needed and we managed to find the counters and observers although I am not sure how, they just materialized. Jane Erdenberger our Assistant Rules Chair was out in the parking lot doing rules and whatever else was needed. People just stepped up and made it work.
Because of the three groups there was some lag time as numbers were gathered and reported so to entertain the people in the cafeteria others stood up and told jokes and everyone had a good time waiting.
We finished a bit early with no hitches, got everything cleaned up and packed up to go to the county party offices by 1:30. Bill looked at his pedometer and he had traveled about 7 miles that morning running between the groups, answering questions and putting out potential fires which were few. In the end it was 1438 plus the 17 uncommitted who stayed uncommitted and not viable for a total of 1455 happy merry caucusers.
I can’t say how proud we are of everyone who made this Caucus wildly successful. We want to thank Mel the custodian at Benson High (go Bunnies) who cheerfully made sure we had everything we needed including more tables when everything blew up. And I am glad we planned for an apocalypse.