There’s a heavy book sitting on my desk filled with the words of 251 El Pasoans. I enjoy cracking it open occasionally, not just for the cast of characters and history it holds but for the sheer pleasure of reading.
The book contains El Paso Inc.’s first Q&As from 1995 to 2000, including one with a 51-year-old Texas governor who some thought might be gunning for the presidency, George W. Bush.
One profile about an El Paso businessman begins: “It took a world war for Woody Hunt to be born somewhere other than Texas.”
And another: “It’s a lovely, old, graceful building, decorated with parapets and columns and cool tile floors of Moorish design. It sits up on a mesa, overlooking a valley where sheep graze. Sometimes people mistake it for a mission or a country inn.
“But this is not a place to spend the night. This the La Tuna Federal Correctional Institution, one square mile of imprisonment.”
The book transports me to other times and places. Looking through the names, I’ll sometimes wonder: Where are they now?
Fittingly, that is the name of a new feature we’re launching in today’s paper. It’s aimed at, well, answering that question. They will appear periodically, every other issue or so, and include a story followed by a brief question and answer.
You can read the first installment on page 3A. It features Eliot Shapleigh, a fifth-generation El Pasoan and former state senator who was the first person to answer our call and agree to an interview.
Each installment will have its own flavor. Since Shapleigh is political, so is the story and interview. We’re not limited to the people in the book on my desk, although the Q&As have helped us identify people who we should catch up with. Our aim is to feature a diverse cast of characters – folks who made a mark in business, nonprofits, government, the arts, education, sports or something else.
It’s worth noting these are not like our long-form Q&As. The interviews are brief and edited tighter.
El Paso Inc.’s first Q&A with Shapleigh was published on June 22, 1997, when Shapleigh was 44 and had just completed his first legislative session in the Texas Senate. He had been named one of the Senate’s “brightest stars” by Texas Monthly.
Where did he see himself going in politics the reporter asked? “Politics is a hard life and an unforgiving career,” Shapleigh answered. “Your smallest error is on the front page of the paper, and being a state senator is as much as I want to do, as much as I can see myself doing.”
And that’s what he did until 2011. He stunned the political community and his own staff when he announced that after 12 years in office, he would not seek reelection. More details are in the story on 3A.
Do you know of somebody we should consider? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of who they are and, if you’ve got it, a way to contact them.
Believe it or not, that book of El Paso Inc.’s first Q&As is the only one we have (although I’ve heard rumors of a second one). The interviews only live in that book and one or two other places in the bowels of El Paso Inc.’s paper archives. Someday, we’ll get them properly uploaded online.