It's not exactly a vacation, but Bill Lacy, director of the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University, plans to take a break from that job to pursue another passion.
One of Lacy's strengths in leading the Dole Institute has been the many connections he made in his years as a political strategist and consultant. For that reason, it's not all that surprising that he would be drawn back into the campaign fray to help a former associate, former Sen. Fred Thompson.
Lacy announced Wednesday that he will take an indefinite unpaid leave of absence to manage Thompson's exploratory presidential campaign. The length of his leave apparently will be determined by his success in leading Thompson's campaign. There seems to be little doubt that Thompson will enter the race for the GOP presidential nomination. If he fails to gain the nomination, Lacy may be back at KU within a year. If Thompson is elected president, it may be a while before Lacy is back at his Dole Institute desk.
In an e-mail accompanying the official university press release about his leave, Lacy reminded those who have enjoyed Dole Institute programs that he had spoken often "of the need for all Americans to take a greater role in politics and their community." With the blessing both of KU officials and former Sen. Bob Dole, Lacy said, he had decided to take a leave of absence "to fulfill a public service obligation."
It may be an "obligation," but we suspect it also is a labor of love for Lacy who was campaign manager for Thompson's 1994 Senate race and has served in senior roles in five presidential campaigns.
Lacy has done an outstanding job at the Dole Institute, which has been a hotbed of civic engagement under his leadership. He and his staff have welcomed such high-profile speakers as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Vice President Walter Mondale and played host to dozens of public events. Many of the institute's efforts have been aimed at the worthy goal of encouraging civic involvement by young people.
Lacy emphasized in his e-mail that he loved his job at the Dole Institute and "will be returning." He will be missed but it's hard to fault him for practicing the civic activism about which he and the Dole Institute so often preach.