WASHINGTON — The nation bid goodbye to George H.W. Bush with high praise, cannon salutes and gentle humor Wednesday, celebrating the life of the Texan who embraced a lifetime of service in Washington and was the last president to fight for the U.S. in wartime. Three former presidents looked on at Washington National Cathedral as a fourth — George W. Bush — eulogized his dad as "the brightest of a thousand points of light."
After three days of remembrance in the capital city, the Air Force plane with Bush's casket left for a final service in Houston and burial today at his family plot on the presidential library grounds at Texas A&M University in College Station. His final resting place is alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years, and Robin Bush, the daughter who died of leukemia at age 3.
His plane, which often serves as Air Force One, arrived at Ellington Field outside Houston in late afternoon. As a motorcade subsequently carried Bush's remains to the family church, St. Martin's Episcopal, along a closed interstate, hundreds of people in stopped cars on the other side of the road, took pictures and shot cell phone video. One driver of a tanker truck climbed atop the hulking vehicle for a better view, and at least 15 firefighters scaled a pair of stopped firetrucks to salute.
Upon its arrival at the church, Bush's casket was met by a military band and Houston Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The national funeral service at the cathedral was a tribute to a president, a patriarch and a faded political era that prized military service and public responsibility. It was laced with indirect comparisons to President Donald Trump but was not consumed by them, as speakers focused on Bush's public life and character.
"He was a man of such great humility," said Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming. Those who travel "the high road of humility in Washington, D.C.," he added pointedly, "are not bothered by heavy traffic."
Trump sat with his wife, a trio of ex-presidents and their wives, several of the group sharp critics of his presidency and one of them, Hillary Clinton, his 2016 Democratic foe. Apart from courteous nods and some handshakes, there was little interaction between Trump and the others.
George W. Bush broke down briefly at the end of his eulogy while invoking the daughter his parents lost in 1953 and his mother, who died in April. He said he took comfort in knowing "Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mom's hand again."
The family occupied the White House for a dozen years — the 41st president defeated after one term, the 43rd serving two. Jeb Bush stepped up to try to extend that run but fell short when Trump won the 2016 Republican primaries.
The elder Bush was "the last great-soldier statesman," historian Jon Meacham said in his eulogy, "our shield" in dangerous times.
But he took a lighter tone, too, noting that Bush, campaigning in a crowd in a department store, once shook hands with a mannequin. Rather than flushing in embarrassment, he simply quipped, "Never know. Gotta ask."
The congregation at the cathedral, filled with foreign leaders and diplomats, Americans of high office and others touched by Bush's life, rose for the arrival of the casket, accompanied by clergy of faiths from around the world. In their row together, Trump and former Presidents Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton stood with their spouses and all placed their hands over their hearts.
Simpson regaled the congregation with stories from his years as Bush's friend in Washington. More seriously, he recalled that when he went through a rough patch in the political game, Bush conspicuously stood by him against the advice of aides. "You would have wanted him on your side," he said.
Meacham praised Bush's call to volunteerism, placing his "1,000 points of light" alongside Abraham Lincoln's call to honor "the better angels of our nature" in the American rhetorical canon. Meacham called those lines "companion verses in America's national hymn."
Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney praised Bush as a strong world leader who helped oversee the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union and helped bring about the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, signed into law by his successor, Clinton.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the day marked "a celebration for a great man who has led a long and distinguished life."
Bush's death makes Carter, also 94 but more than 100 days younger, the oldest living ex-president.
Following the cathedral service, the hearse and its long motorcade drove to the National Mall to pass by the World War II Memorial, a nod to the late president's service as a World War II Navy pilot, then transferred his remains at Joint Base Andrews for the flight home to Texas with members of his family.
Bush is set to lie in repose at St. Martin's Episcopal Church before boarding a special funeral train to be carried to his burial today.
Trump ordered the federal government closed Wednesday for a national day of mourning. Flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff for 30 days.
Flagstaff City Council moved one step closer to raising landfill and trash pickup fees in order to support a number of infrastructure projects over the next few years.
In November, the council had decided to go with the option that would raise fees by 7.5 percent annually for five years, but many were not happy about the proposal. The increase led some members of the council to wonder if the city should be in the solid waste business in the first place.
And that question came up again on Tuesday. Vice-mayor Jamie Whelan wondered what the difference would be if the city were to simply have a private third party provide such services, while councilmember Eva Putzova questioned what allowed companies like Waste Management to offer lower prices.
“Are we at all considering farming out this service?” Whelan said.
But Cinder Lake Landfill director Todd Hanson said moving in that direction was not the way to go. Hanson pointed to the difference in priorities between the city and a private waste management company.
The city is trying to provide a service to its citizens, Hanson said, while a private company would be focusing on ways to increase its margins and keep its stockholders happy. And Hanson said he should know: Before he began to work for the city three years ago, he worked for private waste management companies for 26 years.
“We make enough to reinvest in our business to keep it going, to keep the landfill operating, to keep our equipment on the road, to keep the fleet going, to hire people and pay them a decent wage,” Hanson said. “An outside contractor looking at it, it’s cost plus investment -- oh, and by the way, keeping the investors and the board of directors happy. I know if we were to do that, things would get exponentially expensive to do the same job here.”
Landfills are extremely valuable, Hanson said. There are only about 2,000 landfills across the United States and the majority are privately owned and operated. Owning and operating its own landfill allows the city to be more future focused and is a huge asset for the city.
Nonetheless, increases in the fees are sizable. In dollars and cents, the 7.5 percent annual increase would mean residential rates increasing from the current $17.73 to $25.45 over the next five years.
That rate increase would only affect residents, however, as businesses and commercial entities’ rates should increase by only 3 percent the first year. This is in order to stay competitive with private companies, which are allowed to compete with the city for commercial business.
There would be no subsequent rate increases after that.
But Hanson said because the rates have not been raised for the past 10 years, the increase is not an unreasonable ask.
Council plans to pass the fees for the final time on Tuesday.
Updated for correction at 3:48 p.m. on Dec. 6.
Flagstaff Unified School District is hiring two new employees to join its administrative team: associate director for Communications and Public Relations, who started this week, and director of Transportation, the final candidates for which are still being interviewed.
“We had excellent candidates for both positions that we were able to choose from,” said Dawn Anderson, FUSD director of Human Resources. “We typically have both internal and external candidates, all of which have great skill sets.”
Although there is no established timeline for filling the transportation position, Anderson said the final candidates have been identified and are being interviewed.
“We are in the midst of our interview process [to ensure] that we hire the right candidate for the position,” she said.
For administrative positions like these, the district has a two-part hiring committee in place to determine the ideal candidates. The first part is comprised of employees within the future employee’s department, while the second includes various administrators, depending on the position. The human resource department – typically Anderson herself – oversees the hiring process.
“[Human Resources will] ensure fairness, consistency and appropriate guidelines are followed when we go through that process,” she said.
Zachery Fountain has been selected as the new associate director for Communications and Public Relations. He accepted this position after three and a half years in an equivalent position at Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, Ariz. Prior to becoming involved in public education, Fountain served in various local governments, including Murray City, Utah as deputy chief of staff for Legislation and Communication. He also worked for the City of Surprise.
Fountain said he made this switch to public education because it allowed him to tie in his passion for communication with his beliefs in the importance of education. He said Flagstaff is an ideal educational environment to use these passions.
“FUSD is a destination district,” he said. “People look for their whole careers to work in Flagstaff. It’s just such a great environment.”
When he discovered the FUSD job, Fountain said he spent a significant amount of time learning about the community and brainstorming areas where he could help improve it. The interview process was demanding and he said he is working to live up to the expectations.
The goal of his new position is to ensure effective communication with local families; Fountain hopes to do so through as many mediums as possible.
“There are more and more ways of getting information out and we want to make sure we have a dynamic program in place,” he said.
Since starting Monday, Fountain has been visiting the various schools throughout the district to meet FUSD’s administrators, teachers and students.
“I am very excited to be a part of the community," he said. "I am looking forward to sharing information with the community that will allow them to connect with the schools.”