Coach driver for the rich and famous just one of the guys

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 10/5/2012

Leave it to a group of savvy truckers to strike up a conversation that ends with an invitation to ride on a presidential campaign coach.

The truckers, in town for the fall meeting of the OOIDA Board of Directors in Grain Valley, MO, weren’t shy about breaking the ice once they noticed the brightly wrapped “Romney/Ryan” campaign coach parked at their hotel Thursday night.

It turns out the candidates themselves weren’t on board, but the driver, Glenn Childress, ended up being a down-to-earth guy who was more than happy to talk shop and swap stories.

Photo by David Tanner

OOIDA members and staff get a close-up look at the Romney/Ryan campaign coach driven by new OOIDA Member Glenn Childress. Childress has driven for many candidates and celebrities through the years.

OOIDA Life Member Gordon Johnson, in town for the meeting, asked if Childress would consider stopping by the Association’s headquarters on Friday morning.

“I told him that if he brought that bus down to OOIDA, I would buy him a membership,” Johnson said.

Childress, who drives for Premiere Transportation out of Nashville, TN, had one better up his sleeve. On Friday morning, as the truckers sipped coffee in the hotel lobby, Childress asked how many wanted to ride in the coach. He didn’t have to twist many arms.

Childress finds himself talking to lots of people on the campaign trail, and says he’s heard every possible question. But through it all, he still manages to keep his personal politics to himself.

Childress drove for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and says the two are still acquainted. He has also driven Hillary Clinton, Mike Huckabee, John Kerry and other politicians as well as a long list of celebrities and musicians. Childress himself plays steel guitar and has toured with Lonestar and other groups.

Fresh from the 2012 campaign’s first presidential debate in Denver, Childress was moving the coach to a campaign stop in Indiana when he laid over. He said he was initially scheduled to drive Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, to a speaking engagement, but her schedule changed. Every day is something new, he said.

“He invited us in, told us about his life and that he’d driven for both Obama and Romney,” said OOIDA Life Member Bob Esler, careful to avoid what could be construed as an endorsement for either side.

“An opportunity was presented, an opportunity was taken, and it was good for everybody,” he said.

More than a dozen truckers made the short ride from the hotel to headquarters on the coach. Many posed for pictures inside and out, and the vehicle and its wrap attracted a number of OOIDA staffers to come out and take a tour.

“He came across to me as a guy you could talk to for hours,” OOIDA Life Member Bill Rode said of Childress. “A good ol’ country boy.”

True to his word, Gordon Johnson invited Childress inside and signed him up as a new member of OOIDA. Childress says that if it weren’t for the schedule change, he would not have laid over in the area and would not have gotten to meet the truckers. He said he believed the outcome was meant to be.

OOIDA Life Member Lou Esposito asked if Childress would pass along a note to candidate Romney.

“Of course,” was the reply. Esposito later described the note as an invitation to sit down with small-business truckers to have a serious conversation about the issues.

The brief encounter with the campaign coach and its approachable driver was about making the most of an opportunity to have a conversation – whether just shooting the breeze or bending an ear about the issues.

“It’s not often you sign up a presidential bus driver to be a member of OOIDA,” said Esler.

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