The first time I met Neil Giuliano was on a Tempe based airline America West flight from Phoenix to Washington DC in January 2001. I had just turned 19, was about to leave on a Mormon mission to Russia and my mind was finally waking up to the reality of the world around me. Neil had been embattled with the Boy Scouts of America over the use of public buildings and discrimination against gay men. Neil, one of the first out gay mayors in the nation, was going up and down the aisle speaking to people on the plane and I recognized him from his picture in the newspapers. I admit I was a little star struck and made sure to say hello and shake his hand and let him know I was an Eagle Scout. He chucked a little bit and smiled and said, “alright” as he nodded his head. What he didn’t know and what I couldn’t say was that I was deeply in the closet and meeting someone in person who I knew was gay and out was a big deal for me. At that time I was a registered Republican (as was Neil) and I was flying to DC to go to the inauguration of George W. Bush, whom I had voted for in my first ever presidential election. Neil asked me about my trip to DC and suggested things I should do while I was there.
Fast forward to 2008 when his and my paths crossed again. I had long since come out of the closet and was actively involved in Tempe and Phoenix community building and so it was only a matter of time before we ran into each other. He didn’t remember meeting me on the plane (and why would he?) but I did. Since then I’ve gotten to know Neil a lot better and consider him a good friend.
I’m feeling really excited for him because after years of working on his memoir, it’s about to be published.
From the book’s website:
Neil Giuliano made his mark in politics as Mayor of Tempe, AZ, where he served his community as leader for a decade, retiring from that position in 2004. While serving as Mayor,Neil came out as a gay man and continued to serve Tempe with distinction, including winning re-election three times. After leaving office, Neil went on to serve as President of GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for four years and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
In June 2012, Neil’s first book “The Campaign Within: A Mayor’s Private Journey to Public Leadership” will debut. Part memoir, part inspirational autobiography, the book follows his personal and professional evolution through a life in politics, his civil rights activism, philanthropy, evolving LGBT issues, and the controversial principles behind being at the forefront of issues and action, the fortitude of our own private morality, diplomatic problem solving, and the stakes of leadership in the modern world.
I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this book and I can’t wait to see the final product. Neil is a sharp and experienced leader who thinks clearly and makes rational decisions. For Arizona politics, those kinds of qualities are rare.
The book is already getting great reviews and I can’t wait to read it.