Editor’s note from Communications Director Rob D’Amico:
When I arrived at Texas AFT some 14 years ago, the Hotline was just that—a phone line that you called to listen to the day’s legislative and education news on an answering machine recording. I would arrive early each morning to read what our legislative director—Eric Hartman—had written and try my best, before coffee, to add some inflection into the machine recording to make it more entertaining for the listener.
It was a tedious process chosen in the late 1990s because mass emails were difficult at the time, and no doubt, we didn’t get a whole lot of people calling in. Or folks would likely hang up mid Hotline after getting tired of listening to my voice on the longer pieces. I quickly decided this was outdated and convinced our staff to switch to a daily email publication.
We had about 3,000 emails from members at the time and threw them into a list of subscribers, and of course, we dutifully put out one last phone recording directing people where to subscribe online. Eric, although brilliant in so many ways, has never been the most tech-savvy guy, so I retained the job of getting the Hotline formatted and out the email software every day.
The number of subscribers has waxed and waned over the years and is about 40,000 now. The loyal readership also now is a healthy mix of school employees, politicians, legislative staff, and journalists. What hasn’t changed is the dedication of Eric to write a piece every weekday (and on some weekends) with only a rare day here and there missed when he reluctantly would call me and say, “I’m out of gas. No Hotline today.” (If you ever wonder why the Hotline arrives late at night sometimes, it’s often because Eric is still laboring away after sunset to get it done.)
I’m not quite sure how many Hotlines Eric has written, but my best estimate is about 5,000 through email, with likely thousands more in the phone days. (About half of them can be found on our site now, and we’re working on a better Web archive for the first half from an old site.)
Today Eric Hartman is retiring after more than 23 years. We’ll have more to say soon about the amazing work he has done over the years at Texas AFT helping deal with the good, the bad and the ugly at the Capitol. But for now, here’s a hearty thanks to the man that has diligently kept us in the know each day.
Yes, the Hotline will continue. But Eric was a master at grammar, unlike the few of us now tasked to try and fill his shoes. So bear with us and let us know if you spot any boo-boos, and we’ll try to keep Eric’s “baby” going strong! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.