We Want the Funk

My Knight in Gray Armor

I call my husband Funk. We were introduced in the lunchroom at Salem University, in Salem, W. Va., where he was a professor and I a student. Our first fight occurred before we finished that meal. Still, the guy fell completely head over heels for me, a place where he remains today. Once, one of his college fraternity brothers said to me that Funk had married way up. I love that guy, and believe his opinion to be true.

After my second semester in college, even though Funk wasn’t my professor, the university president gave my then-boyfriend an ultimatum – the university or me. We moved shortly thereafter to Nashville, Tenn., with Funk taking employment offered by a former professor. It was an entry-level position in the State Auditor’s office, a profession Funk knew nothing about. But the mind-numbing new field proved a good fit, as it allowed my do-gooder man to apply his social worker degree to a broader population.

In 1985 we birthed our beautiful baby girl named Tara, and in 1988 we moved to Kansas City for me to be a stay-at-home mother and Funk the city auditor. Over the next 18 years, my husband’s work was frequently featured in the media, with him revered by reporters and citizens for being a straightforward, highly ethical, fearless watchdog of taxpayer dollars.

It was through his audits that Funk was able to tighten the reins on an out-of-control mayor and council. The triumph was good for the city, but not so good for our family. Those 13 council members were also his bosses, which meant that on any given legislative Thursday his job was in jeopardy.

Yet with the newspaper behind him, and the council fearing bad press more than anything in the world, Funk retained his position. Moreover, the dissention between auditor and council was dramatized in the media, so when my husband stood tall against the council, it brought him even more cheers from residents.

But even with Funk’s oversight, his reports could only put a crimp in the number of backroom deals conducted across town. With the council taking the ante from city funds, its deals put Kansas City on the edge of bankruptcy. And that was the breaking point for my husband.

My children’s father bored us to tears with the topic, but the council and what to do about it, became a nightly topic of conversation around our dinner table. Ever the champion of regular folks, somewhere during the last five years that Funk was the auditor, those dinner talks typically culminated with his threats that if things didn’t change he would remedy the problem once and for all by running for mayor.

Things got worse. In 2006, Funk knew he could turn the city around if he only had more power, so he felt obligated to make good on those threats. And that’s when the sweet little life my family had built for itself radically changed.

In my husband’s one term as mayor, he succeeded in pulling the city back from the brink of bankruptcy and reduced the incessantly high crime rate. Currently, he serves as the publisher of Governing Magazine.

Funk is my knight, but only in gray armor. When I was little, I dreamed of marrying a knight in shining armor. My husband coddles me, but he never lets me get away with not evolving as a human. Yet white knight or not, this is who was given me, and after 34 years of marriage, it looks like I have to keep him.

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