Rendell, the unwired governor
HARRISBURG - Gov. Rendell is the state's cheerleader-in-chief for high technology. He crusades for computers in classrooms and high-speed wireless. He sprinkles his speeches with phrases such as "technology as a learning tool" and the necessity of learning computers to secure a good job.
HARRISBURG - Gov. Rendell is the state's cheerleader-in-chief for high technology.
He crusades for computers in classrooms and high-speed wireless. He sprinkles his speeches with phrases such as "technology as a learning tool" and the necessity of learning computers to secure a good job.
Truth is, Rendell's a decidedly low-tech leader and proud of it.
When he took office in 2003, he had his aides remove his predecessor's computer from his ornate Capitol desk, and he never looked back.
Save for the cell phone, Rendell still lives the life unwired. No computer. No BlackBerry.
"I'm too old," Rendell said. "I'm about 10 years behind the technology revolution. If someone asks me, 'Can [you] get on the Internet?' I say, 'Yes, in about 60 seconds,' and I call David Yarkin."
Yarkin, a former administration official and close family friend 30 years Rendell's junior, is a businessman in Washington.
Rendell's associates say time is frozen for him in the pre-Internet era.
"Those who have known him for so long know that the computer was not part of his world 20 years ago, and we could have predicted with absolute accuracy that it wouldn't be part of his world 20 years later," said Alan Kessler, a close friend, fund-raiser and self-described BlackBerry addict.
When aides or friends need him, they dial him up.
"You call or fax," said John Estey, a friend and former chief of staff. "He's still a guy who says, 'Fax that to me.' "
Rendell receives his e-mail in hard copy, or the contents are delivered orally, aides say. When he needs to send an e-mail, he often asks someone in the room to send it on his or her BlackBerry.
"What he doesn't understand is that people don't get them instantaneously," Estey said.
Another confirmed techno-phobe politician, Sen. John McCain, has taken heat from the digerati over his refusal to join the computer age.
Those around Rendell, though, see advantages.
"It's never been a problem," said Dan Fee, Rendell's deputy campaign manager in 2002 and 2006.
Fee said not having the guy who makes the decisions in on all the back-and-forth e-mails leading up to them is a good thing.
Some candidates, Fee said, are BlackBerry diehards and end up getting cc'd on everything. It clogs the policy-making machine, he said.
"He doesn't pay us to include him in the process, he pays us to run the process, and he makes the decision," Fee said. "It makes it easier to do my job."
Words on paper
Though Rendell says he usually speaks extemporaneously, if he needs to put something on paper he writes it by hand.
"There's something about putting your words with your own hand on paper," he said. "That's better, I think, than putting them on a machine. It feels good, and if you write something out, the ability to remember it is far greater."
Close associates say they like communicating with him the old-fashioned way - hard copy.
"He reads everything," Estey said. "He takes a stack of papers home and always comes back the next day with them all marked up. It's better than someone using a BlackBerry on the fly."
Rendell has a Facebook page - likely created by a fan - with nearly 4,700 supporters, and he probably doesn't know it.
But Rendell says he is slowly edging into the modern age. He whipped out his cell phone to show a reporter that he had figured out how to text message.
Rendell said he was being tempted by ESPN ads on his cell phone that might draw him into the World Wide Web one day.
"Now that I know how to text, I think that's the next thing I'm going to learn," he said. "How to pick up video on my cell phone."