Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
Snake oil salesman, rat, spin weasel, Republican shill, teen-ager masquerading in a suit, hired gun, the meanest man in Arkansas politics, gifted broadcaster, likeable guy. All of the above have been used to describe Bill Vickery and he doesn't really care.
(He was also neck-and-neck with Mike Huckabee as this year's Best Conservative. We elevated Vickery since Huckabee sought tax sanctuary in Florida.)
Vickery got his start in politics back in 1995, helping the Arkansas Trucking Association defeat an initiative proposed by then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.
From there, Vickery worked as a campaign consultant for Lu Hardin's unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in the 1996 U.S. Senate race. Not even a week after Hardin's primary loss, he found himself managing Republican Tim Hutchinson's campaign for the same Senate seat.
"I went from losing in a Democratic primary runoff to managing the Republican and there was no going back after that," Vickery says.
Asked whether his job shaped his politics or his politics shaped his job, Vickery says it was "probably a little bit of both."
"Have gun will travel reads the business card of Bill Vickery," says Pat Lynch, who plays the liberal yin to Vickery's yang every Wednesday morning on KARK's morning news show. The two spar and fight, talking politics and naming the week's winners and losers.
"Bill has his conservative talking points and he stays with them," Lynch says. "I can't blame him for doing that. The charitable way to look at Bill is that when he says something, he really believes it."
Say what you will, Vickery is a political player. His hope is to expand his consulting business into the nation's capital, while maintaining Arkansas roots.
"Bill is shamelessly devoted to the commercial interests of the political right. And he has no moral confliction whatsoever," says Lynch. (Is that the same thing as amoral?)
Vickery says one of the keys to his personal success is not letting the opinions of others affect him and staying humble in a business in which "humility is only two weeks away."
"Now, there have been some things written and said about me, but I just try to stay focused," he says. "To me, what's important is what the client wants and trying to help them achieve their goals. I sleep pretty comfortably at night."
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