Reluctant: Koleszar vs. Goliath Bell
Democrat Steve Koleszar's Achilles heel against the 58th District incumbent may not be Koleszar's modest $50K stash against Rob Bell's massive $300K war chest. It may not be that the 58th is a Republican redistricting dream. It may not even be Koleszar's own description of Bell as "very professional, very polished."
It may be the tie.
Steve Koleszar doesn't strike one as a flashy guy, yet he's wearing a tie festooned with green, red, and yellow hand-holding children over the words "Children First" against a navy background. Rob Bell hasn't sported such an accessory lately.
"I have a vanity about ties," admits Koleszar, who's served on the Albemarle School Board for 10 years. "Whenever I go to conferences, I get education-related ties." His favorite has books. "I like that because my mother was a librarian," he explains.
Perhaps it's that earnestness in the face of conventional wisdom that led Koleszar to challenge Bell. "I was hoping someone else would step up– and no one did," confesses Koleszar. "I didn't want him to run unopposed again."
Koleszar seems quite content on the School Board, and he likes the fact that eight people can work together and see tangible results. That's not the case with the 100 members of the House of Delegates in Richmond. "People say you're stepping up, but it would be a step down," he says.
So why run? That's where necktie obstinancy kicks in. "Delegate Bell voted against Governor Warner's budget– the biggest issue in the past 10 years, and he was on the wrong side," says Koleszar.
Koleszar refuses to see himself as a sacrificial lamb. "I use the analogy David and Goliath," he counters. "A lot of people are afraid of Rob Bell as formidable with so much money. But I have my slingshot–" the people in the district who he says want change.
He might start with the district. It gerrymanders from Scottsville to part of Fluvanna, Orange, and Greene and back to northern Albemarle. "I thought this was just interesting to politicos like me," smiles Koleszar. "In talking to people, they say this doesn't make sense."
Koleszar started his political path as a liberal or "Rockefeller" Republican– until the 1964 convention when ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater clinched the nomination and his supporters booed Nelson Rockefeller as he made his concession speech. "I wrote in my diary, 'I ceased to be a Republican today,'" he reminisces.
Certainly the 58th District candidates offer clear choices. "We're in two different worlds," says Koleszar. "Rob Bell is a prosecutor. As a school board member and businessman, I think about building things." Indeed, one Koleszar sign reads, "Schools, Not Jails."
Koleszar is into raised expectations. "We've raised the expectations of the children who were failing," he says, and by focusing on them, the whole school system benefited.
"I'm expecting voters to rise to my expectations," he says. "Politicians seem to think everybody is an idiot."
Clearly Koleszar does not.
Why here? Nice climate, beautiful countryside and friendly people
Worst about living here? Traffic on 29 North
Favorite hangout? no answer
Most overrated virtue? Consistency. We should change our opinions as we learn new facts and gain greater understanding.
People would be surprised to know: I enjoy playing board games.
What would you change about yourself? I'd be a better listener.
Proudest accomplishment? The improvements we've made in Albemarle schools in the last 10 years.
People find most annoying about you: Too serious
Whom do you admire? Martin Luther King, because he showed nonviolence can change the world
Favorite book? Winds of War by Herman Wouk
Subject that causes you to rant? Waste and inefficiency
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Holding my grandson
Biggest 21st-century creep out? That by not spending $10-20 billion on levees in New Orleans, we now have to spend $200 billion to recover from Hurricane Katrina
What do you drive? 1990 Ford Festiva
In your car CD player right now: I don't have a CD player in my car.
Next journey? Michigan to visit the grandchildren
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I almost went to jail because of being a conscientious objector during Vietnam.
Regret: Not having more children
Favorite comfort food: Ice cream
Always in your refrigerator: Frozen blueberries
Must-see TV: Basketball tournaments
Favorite cartoon: Non Sequitur and Dilbert
Describe a perfect day. Visiting schools in Albemarle
Walter Mitty fantasy: no answer
Who'd play you in the movie? Tom Hanks
Most embarrassing moment? Being poorly prepared for a debate in the eighth grade
Best advice you ever got? Move to Albemarle County.
Favorite bumper sticker? If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO