- Paris Flash
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Paris cardiologist A J Hashmi has filed his candidacy to run for the District 7 seat on the Paris City Council in the city’s May 12, 2011, election.
He sat down for a question-and-answer interview at his office at 1128 Clarksville Ave.
Question: Why are you running?
Answer: There are a couple of aspects of this. When I first came into Paris, I was brought by Andrew Knizley, the former administrator of the hospital, and he brought me in with certain ideas about doing something new at the hospital. It took a little bit of time but we were able to do it. We got the new north campus done, a new heart center done. Not everything I wanted, but it’s a step forward, a step forward for the town. Our cardiology service today is better than what it was before. Now when I came, about five years ago exactly, I entered from the south side of the town, and I turned back without interviewing with the administrator. I called him, and I said, “You don’t expect me to leave Tampa, where I was, and come here.” He asked “Why?” and I told him, “Andrew, I have just entered the town and I don’t think I want to be here.”
Q: What was his reply to you?
A: He said, “You’re here, come visit me first.” Well, I came and visited and there was more to the town than just the south end of the town. Eventually, I stayed here and I love it here. And I’m hoping that one day I will retire here and live here. And there are certain things in the town that I sense still need some improvement — one of them I think are the aesthetics of the town. And I’m not complaining. You know, I am sure people who live here have worked hard on it to get it to where it is, but I think there is improvement needed. The town needs to be made more attractive. Part of the reason I feel that way is whenever I have tried to hire a new physician and bring them here, they like the hospital, but they leave and they don’t want to come back. In other words, there is something lacking in spite of having a good amount of work, in spite of having a decent hospital — not a perfect hospital, but a decent hospital. There is still something lacking that makes people turn away — be it the looks of the town, be it the facilities in the town, be it things to do in the town. So that is one thing that I felt.”
Q: You said there were a couple of things.
A: The second thing that I felt is, you know the town has quite a bit of younger community, but there is nothing for them to do, really. They can go to school, they can go to a ball game, they can watch the movies at the theater. Some of them show up at the same gym where I exercise. But after that, really there is not a lot of outlet for younger people, with the result that when you talk to people, they say “We are thinking of going to Dallas,” or “We are thinking of moving someplace else.” And that we need to avoid. We need to do something about our town so the town is attractive enough to keep the youngsters here. And so, and one difference without being on the council, and I try to do as best I can, I think the Council still has some control that if we start with a new definition, if we start to make the town look more attractive, by trying to bring more businesses in, by trying to do more things for the youngsters in town. Now, there may be financial constraints, there may be all sorts of hurdles in doing it, and I don’t doubt that, and it may be a task that is unachievable, but I think one can still try. And that is why I want to give it a shot and see whether there is anything that I can contribute to help that will make the town better, the area more attractive, and where it becomes more of a blooming town than just a town that is out of the sight of highways and nobody wants to be here.
Q: But Paris is full of people who love living here.
A: I am not talking about nobody wants to be here — I certainly want to be here. I’ve enjoyed it. I love it. The town has a lot to offer as far as I am concerned. You know, traffic is not bad, the housing is not expensive, people are very nice, and you know one feels very comfortable and welcome in the town. I certainly felt very welcomed in the town. I am talking about improvements to make it more enjoyable for everyone.
Q: There is a term for people like you and me who move into Paris as opposed to those who were born and raised here. The natives are Parisians, and the later arrivals are Parisites.
A: (laughing) … I don’t want to be called a Parisite. I want to be known as a resident who lived in Paris who made a difference. That‘s what my aim would be. Whether it be being a physician, whether it be being on the City Council, whether it be without being on the City Council to still help out in any way or form, to be of help no matter what I do. I do feel as a cardiologist I have made a difference, by bringing improvement in the hospital — in cardiology at least. And you know, our results are better, our area is more cleaner, our hospital is more cleaner, and the results are very good. Our results in cardiology are very much comparable to any big hospital. I can assure you we will at some time achieve a hospital here which is comparable to none. And so I want to have a town that is comparable to none.
Q: Do you have children?
A: Yes, I have three sons.
Q: I was reading on the Internet about the visit by the president of Pakistan coming to Paris in September of 2006 to have you conduct some routine medical tests. Afterward, he visited you in your home here, but later in the day in Dallas, he was said to have also visited a residence of yours in Highland Park. Do you live in Dallas?
A: OK, I have two homes. I live here in Paris, in The Hills, and I have a house in Dallas, too. My wife is also a physician, she doesn’t work now, because our kids are very important to us, and they stay at home with my wife, in Dallas. We have three sons, two of whom are UT-Dallas, where they are doing very well, and that is why my wife stays with them during the week. On the weekends my kids and wife come back to Paris.
Q: Have you ever run for office before?
A: I’ve not run for public office, but I have run for office in the sense that I ran for directorship at the university hospital in Tampa, where I was. I won that and became the director of cardiology. And so I have run for elections in the hospital and have run for election in various associations, but not for public office.
Q: Have you been thinking about this for long – running for the City Council?
A: Well, actually, I have talked about it. i keep getting doctors coming for interviews, but they don’t want to stay. So I’ve talked about it as to what are the things that can help improve the image of our town. As I’ve talked about it, there are other people that did encourage me. I’m sure it is going to take time out of my busy time, but I’m a hard-working person. I don’t mind working. It’s a different perspective that I would bring, I think, and I am interested in improving the city.
Q: Have you followed the goings-on of the City Council since you came here in 2006?
A: I’ve read about various issues that the council is dealing with, I’ve read about the various viewpoints.
Q: Other than making the city more attractive and giving young people more things to do, what are you concerned about?
A: I am a very, very strong proponent of trying to do something or other so that, No. 1, the city and its population grows. No. 2 is the city’s ability to provide jobs to people who live here, so that people don’t have to run away to different towns, looking for jobs. And certainly I am a big proponent to the fact that I feel I don’t want outsiders coming over and taking business away. And so I am really a big proponent of whatever can be done to employ the people who are in town and to turn the weaknesses that exist into strengths.
Q: You were born in Pakistan, and I understand your father was a very powerful man there, sort of the equivalent to, in the United States, a member of the Cabinet?
A: My father was a military person. He was an Air Force officer, Â the director of all ground engineering of the Pakistan air force. That’s how he started, but he ended up being senior adviser to one of the rulers in the United Arab Emirate. I would call it senior defense adviser. So yes, he was a powerful man.
Q: Is your father still alive?
A: Yes, he lives here in Paris with me. My mother also lives in Paris. His name is Farid Hashmi — Farid also being my middle name. Â My mother and my father live with me, and they are also voters in District 7, so I have three or four votes at home (laughing again).
Q: Are your wife and sons also registered to vote?
A: Both my wife and I are registered to vote in Paris; my sons are registered to vote in Dallas.
Q: I imagine you have some some interesting insights as a result of your family background and because you have been personal physician to some powerful people.
A: I’ve been involved in taking care of a lot of dignitaries — not just the president of Pakistan but a lot of senior U.S. dignitaries. I have been a guest at the Pentagon, I have been on tours with U.S. special operations, I have been on a nuclear submarine, I have landed and taken off of an aircraft carrier, so I have had a very satisfying life. I have seen things that normally people wouldn’t dream of seeing. You know, I’ve been in a B-52 bomber, I’ve seen the inside of a stealth bomber, just a fascinating experience. I’ve had my best friends as the commanders of the Â U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations. I’ve been to South Korea, I’ve been to U.S. air bases in Japan. … it’s endless.
Q: Again, what brought you to Paris?
A: Actually, as I said, Andrew Knizley, the former hospital administrator here, had also been the hospital administrator for one of the hospitals in Tampa, where I was. He called me one day and said one of the cardiologists over here had gotten sick and so he had retired. Another cardiologist had moved out of town, and another group of doctors had come from Dallas, but the hospital had some issues with it because the patients they took care of mostly went to Dallas. The hospital wanted to bring in a cardiologist who could see patients and treat patients here. And so he asked me to come. I had a very busy practice in Tampa. I was the director of the cath lab at university hospital there, and quite honestly, there was no reason to come. But after I came and saw the place, I think there was a part of me that wanted to see something new done, improvements brought. I took it as a challenge actually, and I had done it before, in Tampa. So I said OK, let’s try it. And I think another driving force was my wife loved the town.
Q: You were turned off when you first entered Paris, from the south. What was it, in particular?
A: The south side of the town, to me, was very unkept. You know, the run-down homes, the poor sidewalks, the non-clean surroundings … was disturbing. Not a good entryway to the town. If I have a choice, I’d do a cleanup drive. Obviously, the town may have its own reason. It has financial constraints, which is the biggest problem everywhere. But the thing about it is, you can keep places clean without spending too much money. It takes a driving force, I think, and if you have a driving force you cannot expect that you will just direct people to clean up and you will not be there yourself. I think if you take the first step and you start cleaning up yourself, others will join in.
Q: So you would be a leader by example?
A: One has to say OK, I am willing to do it. I’ve yet to find a place where people will not follow. You know, everybody wants clean surroundings. Everybody wants nice things for their children. Everybody wants nice places to go visit. I’d love to have a beautiful park, I’d love to have a beautiful skating area, I’d love to have a place where you can sit down and watch the water, and read a book, or do something or other. Again, as I said, not everything may be achievable. But I think if it is in your mind, you might not be able to achieve all of that but you may be able to achieve a little bit. Every little droplet counts, that’s what my feeling is. I don’t believe in mediocrity.
Q: What has been the reaction to people you have talked to about your desire to run for the City Council?
A: Everyone that I’ve talked to has been thrilled. Everybody has been very encouraging, from the city officials, who have been very helpful, to people who live either in the Hills or Oak Creek, or whosoever. People who I’ve discussed this with have all been very, very encouraging, and I hope that they remain encouraging throughout.
Q: How active a campaigner will you be?
A: Again, as I said, it’s a little tough to take all the time out, but I will try my best. I will send some flyers out, but I don’t intend to spend a lot of money on campaigning. You know, we’ll do the best we can, but no exorbitant expenses. I am not into negative campaigning. If I don’t win, and the other person wins, I will be equally helpful to that person. I’ll have no hard feelings about it at all. The purpose is to improve the city and one can do that in whichever which way. I want a positive way. I will say all the good things about all the people who have sat on the city council who have done things, because only the person who is sitting in the seat knows how difficult it was or difficult it is to do it. You know, it is every easy to second-guess people. When you are in their shoes, then you realize how difficult the task may have been.
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