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But I’m not referring to Howard Dean’s internet guru, Joe Trippi. I’m talking about a retired couple in Springfield name of David and Vicky Trippe. Democrats need a few more thousand of their ilk.

At the state convention, I met a mild mannered, extraordinary woman, one who knows how to find and keep political volunteers. In the summer of 2004, Vicky Trippe and her husband David showed up at the Springfield Democratic headquarters to volunteer.

“We want something big to do,” they said. “Something nobody else wants.”

“Coming right up,” was the response, and the job they got was coordinating the precinct captains. Unfortunately, that was in August, and it took a long time to get people in place. So much valuable time was lost in merely locating people to be captains that after that November, Vicky and David decided it only made sense to keep the program going.

I don’t know if sharks really die if they quit moving, but political volunteer organizations do. You can’t stuff that list of door knocking, phone banking, data entering folk into the deep freeze and expect to thaw them out ready to be heated up again two years later. It doesn’t work that way.

Use ’em or lose ’em, was the Trippe philosophy, so they’ve spent the last four years building a volunteer organization in Greene County and keeping their people active. Last fall, for example, they scheduled three different weekends for door-to-door voter identification walks. Other volunteers called people known to be strong Democrats to ask them if they’d be volunteers. Still others called voters who hadn’t been IDed at all to find out their party affiliation.

Vicky stresses that she asks her people what kind of work they’re willing to do, knowing that if they can stay in their comfort zone, she’ll get lots more wattage from them. As a result, the Greene County Dems have so many people enlisted that when primary day rolled around and they needed poll watchers, they had eighty volunteers–an overabundance. Here in St. Louis County, by contrast, we were scrambling. We got lots of volunteers, but by no means was every polling place covered.

And the beauty of keeping people active at regular intervals is that there’s no need to burn them out in the last three months before an election. In Greene County, no one’s been given the daunting task of frantically finding umpteen volunteers. Our worker bees are already in place. While much of the rest of the state is just now getting its rear in gear, the voter ID work in Greene County has been done over a period of a year or two.

Greene County volunteers see the advantage, also, of looking beyond their own group and forming alliances. They’ve recently had joint fundraising parties with Pro-Vote and the Democratic Alliance.  

All that organization paid off big time in 2006. McCaskill’s numbers in Greene County improved from 36 percent in ’04 to 43 percent in ’06. Claire said that she couldn’t have won the Senate seat without the volunteers in Greene County.

What Democrats in Missouri need to do is as simple–and as difficult–as identifying lots of ordinary people who turn out to be … Trippes.