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For Wisemans, politics is all in the family

June 17, 2012


Cape Sandblast, Fla. is a family tradition for Parker Wiseman and his father Marty Wiseman.

Marty Wiseman, director of Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute, said Cape Sandblast is located between Panama City and Apalachicola, on a hump of the Florida panhandle secluded from other beach towns’ tourist attractions. Parker Wiseman, mayor of Starkville, said while their annual week at Cape Sandblast always comes during the summer, it does not always coincide with Father’s Day, as it does this year.

Cape Sandblast is a place where, for a few days, Dr. Wiseman and Mayor Wiseman can be Marty and Parker — father and son.

“We have come here since I was a kid,” Parker said. “We’ll have a daughter of our own to bring next year.”

This Father’s Day, Parker has about one month to go before he becomes a father himself, and he plans to share with his daughter several of the same traditions and life lessons Marty shared with him.

There’s just one obstacle Marty said Parker will have to get past. He said Parker is notoriously averse to changing diapers.

“He won’t be able to do that anymore,” Marty said. “Lindsey (Wiseman, Parker’s wife) knows about how to change a diaper, and he’s never changed one before. I am going to stand over his shoulder and watch that. I can’t wait.

“I’m confident Lindsey and Parker will do ... well by example,” Marty added. “It will be interesting to see how my granddaughter will turn out. If there’s ever a time for on-the-job training, it’s when you have a child. I’m sure he will do well.”

Lindsey said she has faith in Parker. There are videos to prepare him for such things as changing babies’ diapers and bathing them, she said, and preparations are already well underway.

“I think he will be a loving, fun and extraordinary dad,” Lindsey said. “He is obviously very well educated, and that will be important to us. Also, we both love our sports, so that will be a fun thing. Most important will be just to love her with all of our hearts.”

Parker said it’s true he’s had a diaper aversion in the past. As the youngest in Marty’s household, with just one older sister, he said he never grew up around babies. He said he has a lot to learn, but he is prepared to learn it.

“I was blessed to have a very loving household that gave me everything I needed, and I know Lindsey feels the same way about her family,” Parker said. “It is important to both of us to be able to share that with a household of our own. (I want my daughter to know) that she is loved unconditionally by her parents. That’s the most important thing my dad ever gave me. I knew there was nothing I could ever do to make he and my mother love me any less. Certainly, we’ll make sure she learns early on that quitting is never an option and you never give up, no matter how difficult it gets.”

Parker said Marty taught him and his sister early and often to never quit on activities; for instance, he was allowed to stop playing a sport when a season ended, but never mid-season. Marty also gave Parker discipline when needed and all the love he could ask for, Parker said.

“My dad’s my hero. He was my hero when I was growing up and he is still my hero,” Parker said. “We always shared a passion for MSU and also liked talking about politics. We both enjoy life a bunch. I think that’s a gift that he has given me. I think he taught me to be able to carry on with childlike joy even in difficult situations. You never have to have a bad day.”

Marty said Parker “could be a rascal,” but overall, Parker has always possessed a strong sense of responsibility. For example, Marty said, when other children were watching Saturday morning cartoons, Parker was doing his spelling homework for the next week on his own volition.

“I don’t know that we ever had to fight with him to get him to do any homework,” Marty said. “He was wanting to get it out of the way (or) get it done at school. From an early age, he’s been very mature about his approaches to things.”

Parker said he developed a love of politics by osmosis, growing up in a home where television news was always on and Marty was always willing to talk politics. Marty said politics was not only his job but his hobby, but he did not try to instill his love of politics in Parker by design.

“Without my knowing, he probably soaked up a good deal of thinking,” Marty said. “I guess another thing that rubbed off on Parker is (the fact that) I’ve always loved Starkville. He grew up thinking Starkville was the center of the universe. It didn’t surprise me at all when he ran for mayor.”

Marty said Parker expressed interest in becoming Starkville’s mayor as early as 19 years old. Having worked around cities and counties, Marty said he warned Parker how difficult the job can be, with a different set of constituents raising a different set of issues every day.

“I told him it is the toughest elected position I think anyone can have within a state,” Marty said. “You have got to be on your game all the time. Rarely do you see people who plan while they’re in college to be a mayor. He was different and literally prepared himself for it.”

Marty said he also goes out of his way to make one thing absolutely clear: Parker, as mayor, does not act as an extension of his father.

“I don’t want anyone to have any impression that I have a part in any decision that he has a part in,” Marty said. “It’s his life; it’s his career; it’s something he’s very well prepared for. It’s not something I could or would do for him. I don’t even go to speaking events where I know Parker is going to be speaking.”

Parker said this doesn’t mean he and his father rarely talk, and it doesn’t mean they’ve never spoken about city affairs.

He said he is fortunate to be able to talk to someone who not only loves him but also understands his line of work.

“He would never push me on a particular policy course because that’s not the type of father he is, and that’s not the type of person he is, but he is an incredible resource for me when I need to be able to talk through difficult situations with somebody who I know understands,” Parker said. “While he has never told me how to resolve a difficult decision, I certainly do value conversations that I’m able to have with him about what’s going on in my life, and what’s going on in the city. Having my dad as a confidant is something that’s very important to me. Our relationship is such where he’s not just my dad, he’s my best friend.”

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