Just about everyone who walks into Virginia Haley's office finds something to love.
In pins, that is.
Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, the county's tourism marketing arm, collects political campaign pins. She has more than 1,000 pins, which are kept in seven framed cabinets on her office wall. It's a non-partisan compilation that dates back to at least 1965. Everyone from Nixon and McGovern to Bushes and Clintons are represented on the wall.
The collection also spreads from local candidates to national ones to campaign themes and issues — some of which she can't even remember. One pin, for example, simply states “enough.” Another: “I support the 2% solution.” Another clearly leans liberal: “Kiss me, I'm left handed.”
An office space consultant once suggested Haley dump the pins, saying the collection was old and dusty. Haley refused. Many visitors, especially ones of a certain age, marvel at some of the old names, such as Javitz or Koch. “It's a great conversation starter,” she says.
Haley got hooked on politics at a young age. She was fascinated with watching her father, who worked for Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke. In 1966 Brooke, a Republican, became the first African-American popularly elected to the U.S. Senate.
Haley worked in politics, too. She worked for Pennsylvania Sen. Richard Schweiker, Ronald Reagan's vice presidential pick in 1976. When Schweiker was named Secretary of Health and Human Services under Reagan in 1981, Haley moved to the administration, where she oversaw scheduling, security and protocol for the department. In 1989, she moved to Sarasota, where she ran the local office for U.S. Rep. Porter Goss.
Haley has rarely bought any buttons in her collection. Most have come from events or giveaways. Some have been gifts, especially from people looking to balance out the political side. (“Cockapoos for Obama” reads one such gifted pin.)
Campaign buttons, laments Haley, are a dying art. “Back in the day people gave out buttons,” says Haley. “Now you have to buy them or even go to a campaign website, which is worse because then they own you.”
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