It is with a heavy heart that I write this post today in loving memory of Stephen M. Kinney, my mentor and my friend. As anyone who knew him well could tell you, Steve was fiercely passionate in all that he did. He was passionate in his love for his wife Cindy. He was passionate in his loyalty to his friends. He was a passionate advocate for his clients in the corporate and political realms. He was passionate about his hobbies of cooking, golfing, running, and fine wines. Most of all, especially in his final years, Steve was passionate about his faith and his belief that this world was just a stopping point on his way to a better place where he would feel no more pain.
I first met Stephen M. Kinney (those who knew him well will understand just how much he hated to see his name in print as just Steve) when I went to work for him in May of 1999. He had just become a partner at Public Opinion Strategies. By July of that year, I had been transplanted away from the DC area, and far away from all my family and friends in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and I was living in California where Steve was almost the only person I knew. From the day I met him until the last time I had a chance to sit at his home and visit with him a few weeks ago, Steve was like a second father to me. He was always my strongest advocate in the business world. He always offered me honest yet very prudent advice. He prayed for me when I was going through hard times. He did a scripture reading as part of my wedding ceremony. We ran together on “the Strand” in Hermosa Beach in the mornings. My mother even frequently baked him butterscotch pies when she came to visit.
In business, Steve served as a mentor and a living example of the hard work and dedication it takes to succeed in the world of politics. He was living proof that relationships and loyalty really matter. He was personal friends with, or at least had an established relationship with, everyone who played a key role in Republican politics in California. He never forgot a face. At one time, his relationships ran so deep and he was so entrenched that it was nearly impossible for other Republican polling firms to obtain significant partisan business in the State. However, clients did not just blindly return to Steve because of his relationships with them. The business world is much tougher than that. Steve’s clients returned to him time after time because his methodology was solid, his numbers were always accurate, and they knew he was going to tell them the truth, even if it hurt. “Sugarcoating” things was not in his nature.
Cancer may have finally taken Steve’s earthly body, but the prospect of death never defeated his passionate spirit. Even in his final days, he was still following the example of Christ and thinking of others more than himself. His primary concern was not his own physical pain or suffering. It was the emotional pain and suffering of those he was about to leave behind, his wife Cindy chief among them. If he were here reading this, he would want everyone to know that his suffering has ended, and he would ask everyone to pray for Cindy as she walks the road ahead without him. This is the powerful example Stephen M. Kinney set for me, and this is the way I will always remember him. Goodbye old friend.