TAKOMA PARK, MD—A Takoma Park spouse described herself as overjoyed that her husband has abandoned his succession
of failed “artistic” careers and landed a job as a tobacco industry lobbyist.
“It’s about time he gets out of the house,” said Mildred Heller, age 37. “I’m totally supportive
of his need for self-actualization, but sometimes the mortgage has to be paid, too.”
For the past 15 years, Fred Heller, age 39, has been a stay-at-home dad and part-time meditation instructor, organic farmer,
potter, and recycling advocate. But with the realization setting in that the couple would not be having children, Fred and
Mildred decided that it was time to move to another phase in their lives.
“I took the parenting classes, and I volunteered in several preschools, but we just didn’t get around to having
kids,” said Fred. Meanwhile, Mildred built her career in Montgomery County’s Parks and Planning Department. But
with all green space in the County now designated for town house development, Mildred’s job has been eliminated.
So starting next Monday, Fred will embark on a new routine. Instead of waking up at about 9 a.m. and doing tai-chi, Fred
will be putting on a suit and tie and heading down to K Street.
“I’m anxious, but I’m excited, too,” said Fred. “Actually, I had been eyeing this type of
a job for a while, but Tom DeLay had blackballed me for years. I was on his ‘hit list’ because I wrote a letter
to the EPA in support of organic pesticides.”
With DeLay safely out of office, K Street firms began clamoring for Heller’s services. Fred said he “took the
pick of the litter,” and he will be trying to roll back anti-tobacco legislation in the House and Senate, and also seeking
Department of Homeland Security “top secret” classification of all studies that link smoking and negative health
“I think I can make a real contribution on an issue of national importance,” said Fred. “My goal is to
bring integrity and compromise to what has sometimes been a sensitive topic.”
Fred’s salary will be 20 times what he earned in his best year. “It’s not just the salary; it’s
the benefits,” he said. “The tobacco lobby has a great healthcare plan.”
For Mildred, the additional cash will be highly welcome. “First, we get the damn renters out of the basement,”
she said. “Then we buy a BMW 325 Ci Convertible.”
Asked about what they will do in the few days before Fred starts his job, the Hellers answered in unison: shopping. “I
need a new wardrobe,” Fred said. “My madras shirts are collarless, so they don’t go right with ties.”
“Plus, madras is an earth tone, and bright floral colors are in right now,” added Mildred. “That’s
what it said in your employment manual.”
Although pleased that they will be moving up in socioeconomic class, the Hellers admit they will miss some things about
the good old days. “Fred’s other careers generated some great extras,” said Mildred, opening her kitchen
cabinet to show scores of misshapen mugs that Fred could not sell at crafts shows.
Fred’s habit of walking neighborhood children to school each day will be left behind, too. “But, to be honest,
some of the kids, the middle-school ones especially, started to refuse my company,” Fred admitted. “They were
calling me ‘The Creep’ and stuff like that.”