Hansel Emory Tookes II, host of a $10,000-a-plate luncheon on Tuesday for President Obama at his home in the Frenchman’s Reserve golf enclave, is largely unknown to those outside his circle – even to many Democratic leaders in Palm Beach County.
But he is well-known to the Democratic National Committee. Welcome to the world of high-end fundraising.
Tookes’ credentials for hosting such a lunch are impeccable. Not only is he a man of high career achievements, he also serves on several boards of directors, with a Rolodex full of influential friends.
He is the son of Hansel E. “Tootie” Tookes, an educator and well-loved athletic administrator at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. The elder Tookes, who died in 2007, is best known for creating the legendary Florida Classic football game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman College. The FAMU student recreation center is named for him.
Born in 1948, Tookes received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Florida State University in 1969 and a master’s degree in aeronautical systems from the University of West Florida in 1971.
He was a lieutenant commander in the Navy, a pilot for seven years, and later a pilot for United Airlines. His career in industry began in 1980 at United Technologies. Later, at Pratt & Whitney, he was president of the large-engine group. While at Pratt, he presided over the dismantling of a union-organizing effort, but he also was described as a personable manager.
He moved to Raytheon Aircraft in 1999 as chief operating officer and president. Tookes became president of Raytheon International in 2001.
Now retired, he is a board member of Corning, FPL Group, Harris Corp., Ryder, the Florida Education Fund, the Florida State University Foundation, and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Academies.
He and his wife, Paula, have a son, Hansel E. Tookes, and a daughter, Heather Tookes, both of whom went to Yale.
His brother Darryl is a singer, composer and music educator.
Former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, who is running for Congress, recently had lunch with Paula Tookes and described her as “very unpretentious, quite a lovely lady. She just had her first grandchild and that’s what she wanted to talk about.”
Paula Tookes donated $500 to Frankel’s campaign, according to campaign finance records. In the last four years, the Tookeses have contributed to Sen. Bill Nelson, Kendrick Meek, the Democratic National Committee and, of course, Obama.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor used to attend the same church as the Tookeses, Grace Episcopal in West Palm Beach. She remembers them as a “good, upstanding family.”
She acknowledged that she is not at their level when it comes to fundraising.
“I don’t think I’m going to that (luncheon),” she said. “I don’t have the $10,000.”
Neither will Lynne Hubbard, president of the Palm Beach County chapter of the Florida Democratic Black Caucus.
“It is nice to be able to contribute to your party at that level. It’s a good thing to do,” said Hubbard, whose current push is for voter registration. “You know, I think it would behoove me to try to learn more about him.”
The people who will attend the Tookeses’ luncheon might not all be Democrats, but even if they’re not, they still have to fork over $10,000 each.
Guests probably will not be putting a full-court press on the president for some pet project. It’s more about face time, getting photos taken during the president’s 60- to 90-minute appearance in Frenchman’s Reserve.
“It’s very prestigious to have a president come over to your house for lunch, but they don’t go for the food,” said one Democrat. “It’s about the thrill of spending an hour with the president of the United States.”
The people at the fundraisers will be “like giddy teenagers,” a Democratic operative said. “They will want to get their pictures taken with him. Everybody gets a little ‘w.’ ”
Air Force One will land at Galaxy Air in West Palm Beach at 11:45 a.m. The president’s only official appearance, a speech about the economy at Florida Atlantic University, is at 2:55 p.m., and he takes off from Fort Lauderdale at 9:20 p.m.
After the FAU speech, the president will attend a fundraiser at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, with tickets costing $500 to $5,000. Then he will be the star attraction at the home of lawyer Jeremy Alters in Miami-Dade County. Tickets for that dinner are $15,000 to $30,000.
The fundraising events are not even mentioned on Obama’s itinerary, but raising money is so important that the FAU speech probably was planned after the fundraising events were arranged, a party insider said.
The test for anyone willing to host a fundraiser is “how many people can you get to come at X thousands of dollars,” said the insider, who asked not to be identified. “The president’s time is extremely valuable, so if he’s coming, it has to be a success.”