AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Published Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 | 5:54 p.m.
Updated Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 | 5:56 p.m.
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He didn’t look like the average pizza deliveryman.
Wearing tan slacks and a dress shirt — sleeves rolled up, of course — President Barack Obama sauntered into a Henderson field office for his campaign Monday afternoon, clutching six boxes of Settebello pizza.
It was a low-key entrance, much like the excursion itself. The president’s motorcade, in a change from the norm, stopped at traffic lights along the way and wound up mixing with regular traffic.
The commander-in-chief’s security detail arrived minutes before him, sweeping the office located in a nondescript plaza at the corner of Valle Verde Drive and Horizon Ridge Parkway. Obama entered at 2:06 p.m.
“My jaw dropped,” said 73-year-old Ellen Merill, a campaign volunteer.
The room erupted in applause. Obama discarded the pizza and began making the rounds, shaking every hand and dispensing hugs to the approximately 20 campaign staff members and volunteers on hand for his surprise visit.
Well, almost surprise visit. The group had about 20 minutes to prepare, tipped off by a higher-up staff member.
“They said, ‘Clean up the room! Obama is coming to visit,’” said Denise Walker, a retired teacher who now volunteers for the Democratic incumbent’s campaign.
The president’s entranced almost reduced Walker to tears. She said Obama seemed “so natural, so genuine” during his 27-minute visit, even singing “Happy Birthday” to a fellow volunteer.
“He said, ‘Give me a hug,’ and I just melted,” Walker said. “It’s like meeting a rock star, only better.”
Obama thanked the group for its hard work and asked for continued support in the next 36 days, a time marked by presidential debates and fierce boots-on-the-ground campaigning.
“I don’t mean to put too much on your shoulders,” he joked.
It’s a safe bet Henderson resident Marcy Ramirez is up for the challenge. The campaign volunteer endured a car wreck two days ago while out registering voters. Then someone stole an Obama-Biden sign from her front yard.
“You just wake up and go, ‘Where am I going (today)?’” she said.
Last month, Ramirez met Obama during a rally at Cashman Center. This time was more serendipitous: She stopped by the Henderson field office to drop off some campaign labels.
And, as luck would have it, Ramirez even had a large photo of Obama with her — perfect for the president’s John Hancock.
“I said, ‘You’re going to sign my picture, right?’” she said. “He said, ‘Yes, yes, of course I am.’”
Two-and-a-half miles away, the phone began ringing at Settebello. It was a reporter, inquiring about six pizzas ordered by the president’s party.
That’s when Dana Olsen, a manager at Settebello, connected the dots. The order of two Margherita with finocchiona salami, two Capricciosa and two Margherita pizzas would be forever memorialized in photos with the president.
“It’s funny,” Olsen said. “One of the girls who works here yesterday asked what we would do if he came in.”
Olsen, who said she was not an Obama supporter, wished he had stopped by the pizzeria, but she was excited about the possible boon to business.
“I think it’ll help people be curious and want to try what he tried,” she said.
Back at the field office, the pizza boxes remained untouched until after the president bid farewell. Then the group dug in, fueling up for the road ahead.
“It’s going to take me a long time to think about it and take it all in,” said a beaming Merill, donning several Obama campaign buttons. “But I’ve got to get back to work. Now I’m really motivated.”
This is Obama's second day in the Las Vegas Valley. He arrived Sunday afternoon and gave a 25-minute speech that night to about 11,000 supporters at Desert Pines High School. He is spending Monday and Tuesday at Lake Las Vegas, preparing for the first of three debates against GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Wednesday night in Denver.
Sun reporter Pashtana Usufzy contributed to this report.