19 November 2009
Profile Portrait Essay: “Influential Person” – Scott Kalna
“Speed happens when people trust each other.”
The Speed Of Trust – Stephen R. Covey
In September 1996, I received a phone call from an old friend, Scott Kalna. He was now working for the Arizona Department of Insurance and he knew they were looking for a data analyst. “Hey Wizard, are you still looking for work?” Scott said. “Wizard” was a silly nickname Scott gave to me because I “magically” fixed any computer problem he came across.
Scott is an interesting character, very personable, gets along with just about everyone. He’s a stocky guy, about five feet eight inches tall, built like a football tight end. His facial features are snowman-like, very round. His face, eyes, nose and cheeks are all round. He is very athletic and enjoys playing many sports. I met Scott soon after I moved to Arizona in 1990. My first job was with MTR Systems, a national business computer reseller in north Scottsdale. Scott was the accountant; and I was the in-house computer technician. Scott and I worked together at MTR for five years. When MTR closed, we went our separate ways, but stayed in touch. Over the next year or so, I went through a couple different jobs.
This call from Scott was very relieving. My wife Noreen and I had been through a rough streak of low income. After MTR, I wound up doing data entry jobs trying to make ends meet. Scott knew this and kept an eye out for positions where he worked. Scott continued, “Hey Wizard, I know about this position that just opened at the Department of Insurance. If you want I’ll get you the contact information.” It was a perfect opportunity. Thanks largely to Scott’s reference I did get the job.
We worked together at the Department for many years. In May 2004, I decided to go looking at cars, in particular, a Ford Mustang Mach 1. I always liked the 1970 Mach 1. Scott drove numerous models of cars, so I always asked him for advice on purchasing new vehicles. At the time, he had a 2003 Ford Mustang Cobra. Over the years that I’ve known him, he purchased, on average, one car or truck every year.
Scott had a contact, Bob Allen, in the Fleet Department at Bell Ford dealership. Noreen and I went to meet Scott at the dealership. Scott introduced us to Bob Allen. It was pretty awe inspiring looking at the vehicles in the Fleet sales area, a bulk sales area catering to businesses and their owners. There were numerous high profile vehicles like the Mustang Cobras and Cobra GTs.
Scott and I had a mutual friend, Jim, who was able to get us a Friends-and-Family discount at the dealership. The Friends-and-Family discount has a fixed price, so that eliminated most of the negotiating. It’s always nerve wracking when you are trying to buy a car. Even when you know what the price is going to be for the car, the salesmen try to find additional things that you “need”. Throughout the paperwork, Scott would nonchalantly remind Bob how these new clients came into the dealership. Bob would look over the pricings and find small adjustments he could make to reduce the cost. With Scott’s help, I ended up driving off the lot with a 2004 Azure blue Ford Mach 1 Mustang.
Scott and I have remained friends. We go to the track for fun driving. Our families get together for camping trips and ball games.
Years before I bought the car, just after I started working at the department, Scott invited me to join a coed softball team with some of the employees and contractors. After a few seasons, the team drifted apart, but some of us were still looking to play more, so I decided to step up and organize a team. It was a fun team for coworkers, spouses and friends. We continued on this team for many years.
It was late summer of 2004; we were at the Roadrunner Park. It was somewhat warm, but just at the beginning of the softball season. Despite a recent injury playing indoor soccer, Scott claimed to be ready to play softball. I was pitching, but not having a very good game. Scott came out to the pitcher’s mound to see if I wanted a relief.
“Are you alright? Your pitches seem to be a little flat,” Scott asked. After playing ball together for years, he recognized my poor pitching and my growing irritation at the umpire.
“I don’t know I just can’t seem to find the release point,” I told him.
“Why don’t you let me come in?” he said with a big grin. “I’ll pitch a couple innings and see if we can get the momentum to turn. Once we’re up by ten runs or so, you can come back in.”
He went to the mound in his classic baseball apparel; worn out cleats, team jersey, and slider pants. He pitched well through a couple batters. The other team had two outs and runners on first and second. They had one of their better batters up to the plate. The batter hit a soft grounder back at the mound. The runner was quick so Scott needed to rush the play. Scott stepped forward and scooped it up. As he planted his right foot to throw, his knee gave out. He began to fall, but made a solid throw directly to the first baseman’s glove to get the third out. He immediately crumbled to the ground and grabbed at his knee. He had to come out of the game after that play. We helped him off the field. Unfortunately, for him, he drove his Cobra that day. Because he wouldn’t be able to use the clutch to drive home, he had to phone his wife, Debbie, and have her bring their oldest son, Chris, to drive the Cobra home.
Scott had to have surgery for a torn MCL. He would have been back the next season, but, due to complications with the surgery, he ended up with a permanent disability in his knee.
Scott encouraged me to put the Mach 1 to good use. He convinced me to join the SVT Owners Association of Arizona (SVTOA). Scott was the president of the car club at the time. We would get together a few times a year to go on different racetracks. Once or twice a year we would go to the Central Arizona Regional Law Officers Training Academy (CARLOTA) test tracks. It’s a fun little three-quarter of a mile road course used to train police. For safety, only one car is on the track at a time.
In November 2005, we were at CARLOTA on their test track for some fun driving with the SVTOA group. On about my third or fourth lap, Scott joined me to help improve my track-times. He had me put forty pounds of air pressure in both the front and rear tires. “This will keep the tires from rolling over on the sidewall, giving you better traction in the turns,” Scott said. As we sat in the car at the starting line, he described a few key points on the track. “In the second turn you will stay wide, that will help you set up for turn four.”
When the flag dropped, I hit the throttle and got the car through turn one quickly. I stayed wide through turn two perfectly to set up turn four, just as Scott suggested. When we came out of turn five, we hit the short straightaway. At the end of the straightaway, my speed was about sixty-five miles per hour. I hit the brakes right on queue and downshifted back to second. As I started into the turn, the rear end broke loose and began to slide out. “You’re going in too…,” Scott start to say. I got back on the throttle and pushed through the turn. “Good job. Excellent recovery.”
About all I could say was “Thanks,” my voice wavering as I tried to keep my wits about me. We continued through the track and I made my best time, 1:08.5. After the race, I told him, “I knew I could get through that turn by stepping on it. It was like driving on ice.”
“I wasn’t sure you were going to be able to keep it on the track,” Scott told me. “But that was a great reaction. That’s an example of the correct tire pressure. If the tire pressure was too low, they would have rolled over onto the sidewall and you would’ve been into the gravel.”
Through the years, Scott and I have enjoyed many sports. Scott’s knee is on the mend, and we’re looking to start hiking, again. He’s one of those guys you can always count on; that you trust.