Robert Fleming started at the Winegard Company a week after graduating from the University of Iowa. It was his first job.
"I didn't have a title, but I'd say I was a sales trainee," Fleming said. "We only had like 28 employees back then. John Winegard would say 'Bob, just follow me around.' He was a great guy to work for."
Fleming followed Winegard for 40 years. He became No. 2 to the antenna mogul, earning the title Vice President of Marketing. Other employees called him "the Deuce," according to Bill Sherwood, who worked with Fleming and still works at Winegard. His work at the company defines most of his life.
"People called him the Deuce," Sherwood said. "Not in a bad way, you know. Just because he was No. 2."
Fleming, 86, is a fourth generation Burlingtonian. His great grandfather Michael Fleming found his way to Burlington from Ireland by way of New Orleans, Fleming said. He took the Mississippi River up.
Fleming is the only incumbent running for reelection, and he has a history on the council dating back to 1967. The Deuce may never have run for office if not for No. 1. "John talked me into running for council the first time," Fleming said.
"Some guys were working on changing the form of government from the old commission form to the current one," Fleming said. "John Winegard thought that made a lot of sense. 'Bob, why don't you get involved with that?' So I did."
In 1968, more than half of Fleming's life ago, Burlington switched from a city commissioner style government to a city council and manager style. In the preceding 1967 election, voters each picked five candidates from a list of ten. A 36-year-old Fleming came in fifth place, earning a vote from 4,347 of the 9,347 who voted.
The Hawk Eye ran an editorial titled "It's Test Time" along with the 1967 election results. The piece challenged the five men elected and the "other 33,280 citizens of Burlington" to make the new system work. "We have a choice between success or continued apathy," it read.
Fleming served only one two-year term then, and he didn't run again until rejoining the council in 2010. If he wins, this would be his third consecutive term. He placed third in Burlington's recent city council primary, earning 478 votes.
"People keep saying, Fleming why are you still doing this?" Fleming said. "Well, you get involved in something and it's kind of hard to quit, unless you're not reelected of course."
Fleming doesn't work for Winegard anymore, but the front desk at the company confirmed Fleming visits a couple times a month.
And he's clearly still in touch. Recently, Fleming brought an offer from Spirit Hollow Golf Course, which is Winegard-owned, to the council to buy Burlington's Flint Hills Golf Course and close it. While Fleming eventually said he was against the offer and voted against it, he was the company's communication line to the council.
Only the old-timers at Winegard Co. really know him. Chuck Bright said, while they overlapped, he never worked closely with Fleming, but added "He's a pretty good guy. He's never appeared to be too radical."
His lacking radicalism is apparent at council meetings. Fleming is rarely the first to speak up at meetings. Asked about his quietness at a recent candidate forum, Fleming said "I don't think what I say at council meetings really means a lot. What really means a lot is how we vote on the important issues and how well we listen to the public."
Fleming's youngest son, K.C., on the other hand, is speaking up at a lot at recent council meetings. He's leading the American Music Festival bid to run the city's Memorial Auditorium. AMF is associated with Steamboat Days. "He's very involved, which I think is great," Fleming said of his son. Fleming said he would abstain from coming votes on the matter.
His son's involvement seems to mean a lot to Fleming. When talking about No. 1, the Deuce uses similar terms.
"John encouraged the people who worked for him to be active in the community," Fleming said. "He set a good example for us."
Fleming has five children: Kevin, Kathy, Sheila, Bryan and K.C. He also served in the Air Force before working for Winegard Co. He said in his service he was an instructor who taught other people to be instructors.
The Burlington City Council general election is Nov. 7.
This is the third in a series of six articles profiling the candidates whose names will appear on the ballot. Fleming is running alongside Lynda Murray, Matthew Rinker, Jon Billups, William Ell and Scott Diehl.