In 1987, a young administrator looking to start a heart transplant program at Vanderbilt University Medical School approached Ted Eastburn to be his partner. Over three years, the two built a nationally renowned transplant center.
Eastburn left Nashville, Tenn., in 1991 to become a partner at a Colorado Springs cardiology practice. He was elected to the City Council in 1999 and is planning to run for mayor next year.
But that young administrator - a man named Bill Frist - went on to achieve a slightly larger profile. Elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee in 1994, he was selected Monday to become majority leader, making him one of the most powerful Republicans in the country.
As with many senators from both sides of the aisle, Eastburn praised his longtime friend Monday as a man of supreme intelligence with the ability to get along with all people.
Eastburn said he is not surprised at the success achieved by the 50-year-old heart surgeon. Recalling his journeys to inner-city health clinics and his emotional bonds to former transplant recipients, Eastburn called Frist "the best man I've ever known."
"What Bill taught me is that physicians have an opportunity and, arguably, an obligation to serve society in a way other than how we offer clinical care," Eastburn said. "He is an inspiration."
The first practicing physician elected to the Senate since 1928, Frist is not your typical politician,Eastburn said. He doesn't play golf, drink or swear. Eastburn said he's never heard his former partner talk ill of anyone.
Frist uses his off-hours to volunteer at free health clinics - a move that has brought chastisement from the Secret Service when he goes without their knowledge, Eastburn said. And he has flown to Africa to perform surgery for Christian Sudanese rebels.
He has a special bond with those whom he has given a new heart or a new lung. Eastburn has a picture at home of he and Frist at a barbecue they threw for 20 transplant recipients a decade ago.
Frist is protective of his friends, too. When Eastburn told him he planned to marry his wife, Deb, in 1996, Frist insisted he take her to Washington, D.C., so he could meet her.
Meeting a fiance's good friend can be intimidating - especially when it takes place in the Senate dining chambers. But Deb said Frist made her feel at ease then and in several visits since.
"My impression of him was that I was meeting someone with more integrity than anyone except my father," Deb said Monday.
For the past nine months, Eastburn said, his contact with Frist has been via e-mail. Eastburn last saw his friend at Frist's 50th birthday party in March.
Eastburn was on the phone with mutual friends Monday, including Penrose Hospital chief of surgery James Stewart, discussing their old crony. And Eastburn hopes to see Frist again this winter and maybe glean a bit more of his knowledge and enthusiasm.
"He's literally the only person I know who I couldn't keep up with," Eastburn said. "He needed less sleep than I did, and he was brighter.
"But," Eastburn added with a smile, "I've got more kids. I've got five. He's got three."
Eastburn's platform built of unique planks/ Councilman enters mayor's race lugging a far-reaching agenda
Unveiling an agenda Monday that reaches far beyond the normal scope of mayoral duties, TedEastburn became the fourth - and likely last - member of the Colorado Springs City Council to announce he will run for mayor.
Eastburn, a cardiologist who has served on the council since 1999, told about 130 people at Garden of the Gods Visitor Center he should get the city's top job because of his "informed, proactive and compassionate leadership."
In laying out his platform, the 48-year-old hit on much-discussed issues, saying growth must pay its way and the city must develop a better water conservation plan.
He also mentioned several topics that have been rarely, if ever, discussed on the dais.
He said as mayor he would bring together prescription-drug providers to craft a plan to make medication more affordable to senior citizens. He vowed to work with regional and state Medicare administrators to attract more doctors to a town short on health care providers.
Eastburn also floated ideas about how to boost the economy. The main one: to develop a plan, along with other local officials, to build a multisport training and fitness complex that would make Colorado Springs the fitness capital of the country.
"We're all going to be concerned about water and growth, management and jobs," Eastburn said after his speech. "My intent is to make it clear I'm reaching further and broader than what's been done."
Eastburn joins fellow council members Sallie Clark, Jim Null and Lionel Rivera in the race for the mayor's job, which Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace must vacate under term limits.
Government critics Tony Carpenter and Kendell Kretzschmar also are running.
Eastburn has been known as somewhat of a maverick on the council, pushing ideas such as the hiring of an automatic external defibrillator coordinator.
Monday, he proved no less original.
Eastburn said if elected he will look to raise awareness of domestic violence as a way to curb such crimes.
He said he wants to bring together social, financial and spiritual organizations to meet the needs of families whose members are deployed to war.
The city's role in each of those proposals would be as facilitator, mainly providing meeting areas and staff time rather than funding to get them to work, he said. But the efforts would address problems in the community that are not being discussed.
As Eastburn sold himself as a man of stand-out ideas in what is expected to be a very close race, his supporters pushed him as someone who deserves the job because of his love of the city and its people.
Campaign manager Bill Mantia praised Eastburn's passion and commitment to supporting his mother, who raised him alone while stricken by polio.
Eastburn's wife, Deborah Mahan, said his integrity and honesty are without equal.
"Ted Eastburn is the truest human being I have ever known," she said. "You will never get anything but the truth from him."
Saturday's crowd included a smattering of Eastburn's patients and fellow doctors and an array of business leaders from across the community.
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THE EASTBURN FILE
OCCUPATION: Doctor, partner with Pikes Peak Cardiology
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: At-large city councilman, 1999-present
COMMUNITY SERVICE: El Paso County Medical Society Indigent Care Committee; Commission on Homelessness in Southern Colorado; Sheriff John Anderson's Jail Review Committee
FAMILY: Wife, Deborah Mahan; five children
LIVED IN COLORADO SPRINGS: 12 years, plus two years during military service
Struggles made leader of Eastburn/ Mayoral candidate says he knows what's needed to take city forward