In Hebrew, “Oz” means strength, and Oz Griebel was as strong as a bull.
But he also had an enormous heart and an incredible intellect. If the Wizard of Oz was based on the life of Oz Griebel, it would have been a very short movie, because Oz had an abundance of all of the qualities that the tin man, the scarecrow and the lion were seeking. Oz was the vision of courage, a man of passion and integrity, and the epitome of a leader. He represented the best and the brightest. Oz’s legacy will endure in all of us as we carry forward his mission to improve our democracy and the lives of all people.
On a crisp morning in October 2017, I received a call while in the car on the way to the office. It was from a friend who was working with a team putting together a potential gubernatorial run for Oz, someone I had never met but knew by reputation to be a highly respected businessman, public servant and community leader.
I knew Oz was the chief executive officer of the MetroHartford Alliance, had led boards of prominent business and nonprofit organizations and had chaired the state’s Transportation Strategy Board. He was well known as a person of substance and integrity. My friend said: “Good morning. This call is coming out of the blue, I’m sure. Oz is going to run for governor, and you’re on our shortlist to be his running mate.” Say what? Are you serious? I took the meeting, and it changed my life.
I quickly learned that Oz is not only a person of integrity and wicked smart, but he cared deeply about people and this state. It was so clear that Oz had it all and would make a great governor. In baseball parlance, he was a 5-tool player. To date, I still have not met the person who did not like him. More importantly, I still have not met the person who did not trust him.
While we did not win that race in 2018, I am so honored to have walked with Oz as his running mate. Oz preached a message of change, about bringing people together and building bridges. He put forward honest, substantive policy proposals. I am extremely proud of the positive campaign we ran focused on experience, leadership and issues.
Oz believed that campaigning is a genuine privilege that affords an extraordinary opportunity to understand the breadth and depth of talent in the state and the passion of so many people committed to staying and working to return Connecticut to its rightful place of national pre-eminence. He would have been a transformational leader.
As stated in The Hartford Courant endorsement of Oz Griebel for governor, “The state of Connecticut is underwater. Years of complacent Democratic and Republican leadership have done little to right this ship. The Courant recommends a new leader, one not beholden to political parties or to the narrow partisan loyalties that control them.”
Following the election, Oz chaired the SAM-CT task force and worked with the national Serve America Movement to lead us toward electoral reform and transparency and accountability in government. And, of course, he brought the same passion and tenacity to SAM as he had to every endeavor in his life.
I have heard from so many people, especially in the last week, that Oz was just before his time. I disagree. What Oz fought so hard for is no different than what George Washington warned us about in 1796: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Oz took our first president’s words to heart and dedicated himself to fix the broken politics in Connecticut and America. When he saw our ship steer off course into rocky waters, he offered to take the helm and bring us to safety, to a better place. Now, it is up to us.
God bless you, my friend.