Justice of the Peace

Interview by Rock Earle

I had seen Brett Eisele for years around town, always readily noticeable for his sartorial choices: always distinctive, if not also occasionally downright elegant. Which always seemed to me to be oddly out of place in our rough-and-tumble little desert town. The tie clips, cufflinks, and on calmer days, saddle shoes with tartan plaid socks? Maybe my memory embellishes, but – in terms of dress anyway – he always marched to a different – his own? – drummer.

And then there were also the pleasantly idiosyncratic TV appearances, such as when he would appear on [his] local TV station to deliver the nightly news, or when he and Miss Bea Lueck would review the weekly grocery coupons in the Wednesday newspaper.

I was vaguely aware most of that time that he was primarily in the real estate business, although I didn’t know with whom or how or where, but it always seemed like he had his fingers in lots of pies. Kind of like me, and I guess I kind of felt a kinship of sorts, despite – or because of? – the ascots, monograms and occasional bow ties.

And there came a time when I was seeking feedback on some photography and writing I had done and some travel business promotions I wanted to do; a friend arranged a meeting and the rest, so to say, is history.

We hit it off quickly, and over the years, he became a trusted business partner and a valued co-conspirator on many other fronts. I always valued his inflammatory smile, poetic sense of adventure, intrepidness and enterprise, as well as his preternatural ability to deliver a story – funny or otherwise – and share a joke and the odd cigar.

And now that I helped elicit here the telling of his Story, our association makes sense: he IS attractively intrepid and enterprising, and as he masters a thing, he moves on to something new, such as his nascent disposition in jurisprudence.

So, I hope that after enjoying this (highly condensed) track of his life’s adventures you will join me in offering kudos to His Honor Judge Brett Eisele.

GC LIVING: Start at the very beginning.

Brett Eisele: I was born in 1950 on a hot, muggy, July day in Nashville, Tennessee. The first memory I have is I did something wrong and was sent to my room. I was playing with the electric train that was given to me for Christmas. So, it really wasn’t punishment and thus began my love of trains.

In 5th grade I was sent to Lebanon, Tennessee, where Castle Heights Military Academy was located. I was a very hyper child and the discipline was good for me. From there I went to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend the Judson School.

GC LIVING: Were your parents living in Arizona at that point?

Brett Eisele: Not yet. Around 1946 my Father took over a company his father founded, Eisele and Company. They manufactured glass thermometers, syringes and surgical supplies. At that time there were two companies, Eisele and Company and Becton Dickinson. Becton Dickinson is still here. It’s now called BD.

In 1963 Dad sold out to the Shulton Company who manufactures Old Spice. That’s when my parents moved to Arizona. My Dad was an avid golfer and they moved out here so he could play golf. I should note he was a scratch golfer! Sadly, he passed away a year later at age 46 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Dad was a very intelligent man. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated college from Princeton University. My brother, Logan, followed in his footsteps. I don’t know whose side of the family I absorbed, but I wasn’t as smart as they were. When my Dad passed everything changed.

At that time, my brother was going to the University of Arizona. Both my brother and my father had gone to prep schools in the East and my Mother felt I should follow the tradition and sent me to South Berwick, Maine to attend the Berwick Academy, founded in 1791.

Here I was travelling from Arizona to Maine and the words Maine and freezing to death are synonymous. It was very, very cold there. This was in 1966 around the time I got involved in politics. I ran for and was elected boy’s representative at Berwick. When I returned to Judson in 1967 every year thereafter, I was elected to a student body position. My claim to fame is that I was the student body president of Judson School my senior year. My wife, Susan, who also attended Judson, always says, “So?”.

Most of my fondest memories are from growing up in Phoenix in the 1960s. I remember going to Legend City, the Phoenix version of Disneyland. I remember skiing in the canals when I got a little older. You know what they say, “God looks out for drunks and stupid people”. We would hook a tow rope to a car and water ski the canal at a high rate of speed.

GC LIVING: Did you go to college in Arizona?

Brett Eisele: Not for a while. I graduated high school on a Saturday night, and four o’clock the next morning I went into the United States Air Force. It was during the height of the Vietnam war when the government had draft numbers. My number was 50 and I was going one way or another.

I went to Lackland Air Force base, another hot, humid place in the summertime. I was in “POL”-Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants. After I got out of tech school for POL, I enrolled in Mesa Community College.

GC LIVING: You have an interesting story when you got married. Tell us about it.

Brett Eisele: My brother, Logan, who worked for an international bank, moved to San Francisco and was elected to the Golden Gate Bridge and Transit District executive board of directors. He was on that board with Nancy Pelosi’s husband, this was in the early 1970s. Because of his board affiliation, my first wife Sharon and I were married on Christmas Eve at 12 noon on the very top of the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. That was very hard for a guy who has a morbid fear of heights. It was Christmas Eve and the judge that married us was named Noel.

GC LIVING: So now you’re married. How did you end up in Casa Grande?

Brett Eisele: I transferred to ASU and was going to major in finance but ended up going in a different direction. I don’t remember how, but I became a radio broadcaster. I went to a radio station once and that was the end of it. That’s when I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

I attended the Ron Bailey School of Broadcasting, graduated on November 9, 1975 and then started working at an FM station in the Westward Ho Hotel. There’s a big tower on top of the Westward Ho in the middle of Phoenix. The owner was a gentleman named Dick Gilbert. His claim to fame, he was the original “disc jockey”. He was named a disc jockey by the famous big band leader, Xavier Cugat.

Dick worked at WNEW in New York. When the big bands would come to town, they would come to his studio and they would all sing together. He was known as the “singing disc jockey”. When he retired, he came to Arizona. All his friends he’d been working with retired and went to work for the then-new Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

He got into the business of applying for frequencies for people. The burgeoning FM market was coming online and, in those days,, you had to apply for the frequency because it was already set by the FCC. In Casa Grande, it was going to be a 3000-watt FM station. You would hire Dick Gilbert and he would put together the application, do all the engineering and investigations. You just paid a fee and signed the deal. He built KNIX in Tempe. That’s a 50,000-watt AM station. There’s very few of those in America and he was granted one of them by the FCC.

While I was working for Dick, we applied for channel 288A, which was the FM station allotted to Casa Grande. Dean Weatherly, who was running KPIN, a 500-watt daytime station in Casa Grande, also applied. It took us a year or two, but we won and were granted the frequency. That is how I became involved with Casa Grande.

GC LIVING: And your call sign was?

Brett Eisele: KBFE. Yeah.

GC LIVING: What does BFE stand for?

Brett Eisele: Stands for Brett F. Eisele. There was a touch of ego there. Well, it had a smoothness to it. “It’s 95 degrees and this is KBFE-FM stereo 105.5.” That was my logic.

What we could do that KPIN couldn’t was broadcast high school football as KPIN was a daytime-only station.

We also broadcast baseball. I’d always had a fantasy about doing play-by-play in baseball. I wasn’t any good, but when you own the station, who cares?

As luck would have it, the first year we started doing high school baseball, they won the state championship. It was just the perfect storm. They beat the big-shot schools in Phoenix, the big-shot schools in Tucson. And everywhere they went, we went. We also broadcast Central Arizona College (CAC) baseball who was affectionally known as a farm club for the Milwaukee Brewer organization. Many CAC players made it to the show.

GC LIVING: So now you’re here in Casa Grande. How did you get in construction?

Brett Eisele: After three years I sold the radio station. I had visions of becoming a millionaire and that wasn’t going to do it. In all due respect, Dean Weatherly had this market wrapped up. It was just a little 500-watt daytime AM station, but they had this market wrapped up.

I’d always wanted to learn finish carpentry, so I asked Jim Hatfield, “Can I follow your crews around? I’ll do grunt work so I can at the same time learn finish carpentry.” That lasted for a while until he asked me if I wanted to go to work for the Company. I had paid my dues. I drove the dump truck which was very cool. I moved into the office and bid commercial jobs. Along the way I learned how to frame. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and made a lot of friends. Then the recession hit in 1982. Last in, first out and I had to leave. To this day, I thank Jim Hatfield for everything I learned.

GC LIVING: Is that when you got into real estate?

Brett Eisele: Yes. I was recruited by Gary Kehias, the broker for the Mahoney Group. They paid for me to go to real estate school and in December of 1983 I became a licensed real estate agent with the Mahoney Group. It was an interesting time to break into real estate as interest rates were 20-22%. As a salesman we told people, “We’ll refinance it soon as everything changes.” Two years later I passed my Broker’s exam.

Gary started teaching me about farms and commercial. I slowly moved from housing into commercial and farms. From December 1983 to 2008, I was a real estate agent, and then agent/broker with the Mahoney Group.

They were interesting times. We went through two troughs and two peaks in the market. Then the partners in the Mahoney Group decided to retire and sold out. The new owners indicated they wanted to get rid of the real estate department, so Rock Earle talked to us and said, “Would you be willing to come over?”

We didn’t waste time. Everyone packed up and left. ROX Real Estate opened in September 2008, the same month Lehman Brothers went down. So once again, Brett enters the picture when things couldn’t have been worse. But you know, it all worked out and we had a whole lot of fun. Rock and I, and our ladies, ended up traveling the world together and saw that life in Casa Grande wasn’t as bad as we thought it was.

GC LIVING: When did you become involved in television and Bean Productions?

Brett Eisele: A local gentleman named Audie Morrow was the electronics teacher at the high school and had the idea of a local television station. It was called Bean Productions because of Bonnie Bean. Her husband was the then-Judge Robert Bean, the presiding Judge of the Superior Court in Pinal County. Bonnie and Audie, and a friend of Audie’s that lived in Coolidge, got together and built the first studio in a back room of Judge Bean’s house. We would produce programs and play them through the local cable outlets in the Casa Grande Valley.

GC LIVING: And then there was KCAB, Central Arizona Broadcasting.

Brett Eisele: There was a new thing with the FCC called low-power television. It’s for small communities that have no local coverage. And when I say low power, we were lucky if the signal went to Coolidge. Audie had this idea and applied for a frequency. It was granted, but he didn’t have any money to start operations. I began talking to folks I knew who might be interested. I spoke with John McEvoy, Eddie Higginbotham, Jack Salvatore and Dr. Marshal Webster. I knew Jack from swimming at the Phoenix Swim Club. At one time Jack was an investigative reporter and news anchor on Channels 3 and 10.

GC LIVING: What year was that?

Brett Eisele: It was 1999. We found programming sources with lots of old movies and television shows. They would let you run their network programming if you ran their ads, and that’s how we programmed the station.

The next thing was a salesperson. Someone told me about a very good salesperson named Bea Lueck who worked at the newspaper. Now we had the salesperson, we had a news anchor, and the engineers were Audie and his sons. I was the field guy, the general assignment reporter. We had an absolute blast!

GC LIVING: And the first newscast had a bed sheet as the backdrop.

Brett Eisele: That’s right! Soon after we had a photo contest to create the backdrop. Tony Eberle had a helicopter and with his son hanging out of the helicopter, they took the photo of City Hall that won the contest.

A few years later we found a backlit image of a control room shot of a television station. It looked like we were in a television station, instead of a Mobile Mini office trailer.

GC LIVING: So, you’ve done radio, you’ve done television, with a few hobbies along the way, airplane pilot, actor —

Brett Eisele: I was an actor for a while, made some good money at it. I still to this day get checks for something I did in 1999. Remember the UFOs over Phoenix? Unsolved Mysteries did an episode called “Phoenix Lights”. I went and auditioned for the part of the Southwest Airlines pilot. That was my first real, big-time acting gig. All the big shot actors in Phoenix were there, the ones who get movies and national commercials. They would sit in the corner and talk about how wonderful they were and here I was sitting in the other corner, looking like a pilot.

For my first gig in a commercial, I got paid 50 bucks. Then I auditioned for a national commercial and was cast in a commercial with John Daly, the golfer, for Wilson Sporting Goods.
I did a lot of print work and billboards in Phoenix. Then my first wife and I divorced, and I quit acting and modeling.

GC LIVING: When did you reconnect with Susan?

Brett Eisele: Susan and I met in sixth grade at Judson School. She came in at half-year and I thought she was as cute as a bug.

Susan and I became girlfriend/boyfriend for a couple of weeks, six weeks, we can’t remember. We were friends all through grade and high school (except my year at Berwick) and eventually graduated. Years later they sold Judson School. It was 40 acres on the East end of Mummy Mountain, prime real estate. In June of 2000 the school held an all-school reunion and Susan and I went to that reunion.

There was a guy in our class who made his millions in the computer business and retired at an early age. With the internet being what it was in 1999, he started finding all of us from our class around the country and sent out updated lists. There was somebody on that list who lived in San Diego who was in our class and I thought I would call her. I was so brokenhearted and lonely after the divorce I wanted someone to talk to, so I called her. She says, “You know who else lives here?” Who? “Sue Page.” Do you have her phone number? She gave it to me and then I hung up and called Susan Page. I hadn’t talked to her in 30 years. She picks up the phone and I said, “Sue Page, how are you?” She responded, “Well, Brett Eisele, how are you?” After 30 years she remembered my voice!

I started telling her, “My wife left me… blah, blah, blah, blah.” Little did I know that she was down at the bottom at the same time. Our phone conversations went on for two, three months. One day she said, “Why don’t you come over and visit?” I started flying over there on the weekends, this went on for about a year. One day we were walking through Little Italy in San Diego and I planted a big kiss on her because my divorce had been finalized. We were married in February 2004 by Judge Phil Bain.

GC LIVING: When did you decide to be a rock star?

Brett Eisele: Susan wanted to give me an interesting birthday present. In 2008, I attended the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp in New York City. It was truly a fantasy camp. The first night they took over a very large music store in mid-town Manhattan where we met our counselors who were actual rock stars. For a week you lived the life of a rock star, practicing music and performing. The big final performance was at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Times Square in front of 1,000 people.

After it was over, Susan and I were watching the Today Show on Labor Day. Five minutes to the top of the hour, they always give you a teaser, and up pops this video. Boom! There’s a video of me and Jon Anderson, lead singer of Yes, my idol, singing together. And then the phone starts ringing, and it’s all the guys who were in our band. They were from all over the country. “Did you see that?” I said, “Yeah. Did you see it?” “Yeah.” And then you ask, “Well, what are you doing?” “Nothing. What are you doing?” “Nothing.” After that, we’re all depressed because it was over and there was nothing to do.

I got in touch with the archive person at NBC in New Jersey. He says, “I can’t let you have the music because it’s copyrighted.” But we can put together this nice little film of you two playing. Jon Anderson, WOW.

GC LIVING: Then you decided to learn to fly?

Brett Eisele: I had flown back when I was going to Mesa Community College after the service. I would drive to the airport, Sky Harbor, and I would take a flying lesson. It was $19 an hour dual.
But I never got my license, because I couldn’t do one of the maneuvers, so I walked away and never went back.

Fast forward to Casa Grande. 9/11 comes along and there were rumors that some of those pilots had trained at the Casa Grande airport at the flight school. I wanted to interview them for the TV station and they said, “No” but they referred me to the chief instructor, Jörg Banda a German man who happened to oversee the training program for Lufthansa. I interviewed him and after the interview said, “Yeah, I used to fly but I quit because I had a problem with stalls.” He says, “We’ll take care of that problem.”

I began taking lessons again. Jörg walked me through the problem and the problem went away. He transferred down to Ryan Field in Tucson and I finished there and obtained my pilot’s license. I had bought an airplane and was flying around a lot, having a good time.

GC LIVING: How did you become a judge pro tem?

Brett Eisele: I volunteer for a lot of things. County Supervisor, David Snider, asked me to be on a committee to choose a committee to vet people to be on the inaugural Pinal County commission for trial court judge appointments. That turns into me getting onto the actual committee.

Then Supreme Court Justice Scott Bales was presiding over the committee and we became friends. One day on the way to Tucson he stopped in for lunch at Ochoa’s with Judge William O’Neil and me. I said, “This law stuff’s fascinating.” they looked at each other and said, “Why don’t you be a judge?” I replied, “I don’t have a law degree.”

Justice Bales told me to go to the local justice of the peace and tell him I want to be a Pro tem. “What’s a pro tem?” He explained they fill in for other judges. I went to see to Roger Valdez, who was justice of the peace for the Casa Grande district and gave him my resume. He said he would sponsor me. At that point, the letter goes to the presiding Superior Court judge who was and still is Judge Stephen McCarville, and I was approved. Then you had to be approved by the Board of Supervisors and I was. Now, I am a Pro tem judge. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m a Pro -tem judge.

And again, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Judge O’Neil swore me in, in Justice Bales’ Supreme Court. And I have this great picture of me, Judge O’Neil, Justice Bales and Susan. Susan is standing behind me with my robe. Great picture.

Judge Valdez began to train me because I would have to attend the Supreme Court Judicial College and graduate. One day he seated me on the bench and taught me how to conduct arraignments. I forgot the microphone’s on, and I turned to him and I said, “Man, this is a lot of fun.” Now, all the defendants in the courtroom that are waiting to be arraigned are starting to show the fear in their eyes and Judge Valdez is elbowing me to be quiet because the mic was on. Or at least that’s the story that still circulates.

I pro-tem’d for him, as well as the Apache Junction, Maricopa, Eloy Justice Courts and the Casa Grande City Court. Meanwhile, the time is approaching where I want to retire because I’m getting out of real estate and Susan and I have a place in Show Low where we want live.

I was approved by the Navajo County Board of Supervisors to Pro-tem there. Then Florence Justice of the Peace Tom Shope decided he wanted to return to the grocery business, two years into his term. I put in an application to become the justice of the peace in Florence to replace him. I really didn’t think anything would come of it. I planned to buy a flannel shirt and hang out at Harbor Freight in Show Low.

However, I was appointed to the job. I was there for two years and then ran for office after the Board of Supervisors combined the Florence and Eloy precincts as a cost-saving measure. I won, and here I am. That’s how I became a justice of the peace.

GC LIVING: How long have you been a judge now?

Brett Eisele: I’ve been a JP for four years and served two years as a Pro-tem. I have two years remaining on my term. Time flies when you’re having fun.
I will end as a judge. I’m still, after four years, not used to being called judge or your honor. It’s good for me to come over here and talk to you guys because I’m disrespected which makes me feel at home!

GC LIVING: We do what we can.

Brett Eisele: And that is a thumbnail sketch of the life of Brett Eisele.