SIOUX CITY | A letter from a 14-year-old Sioux City boy in 1989 may have planted the seed for mega-businessman Donald Trump to run for the presidency.
"I'd like to think he has my letter and that was his inspiration," Brian Vakulskas said, more than a quarter-century after he wrote to Trump and got a reply.
Trump, now the president-elect after a win over Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, hasn't pointed to the encouraging letter as the reason he ran. Vakulskas said he doesn't remember exactly what he wrote Trump, but he apparently urged Trump to seek the presidency.
Trump's return letter, dated July 21, 1989, contained two long sentences, including, "Although I am grateful for your interest in my political future and I appreciate your thoughts and encouragement, at this particular time I have no plans to enter the political arena."
But Vakulskas doesn't see Trump's pivot to run as the sin of flip-flopping. He's glad Trump ran to shake up the federal government.
As a teen, Vakulskas had a period where he mailed out requests for autographs from people in the public eye. He got many back, such as from NBA player Paul Westphal, U.S. Department of Education Secretary William Bennett, and actor Tony Dow, who played the older brother on the "Leave it to Beaver" television show.
He had read Trump's best-selling "The Art of the Deal," and was impressed, so he fired off a fan letter.
"I remember finishing the book and writing the letter the same night," Vakulskas said.
Some time later, the response showed up. An autographed picture accompanied it.
Trump toyed with the idea of running for president in 2012, then didn't. Vakulskas thinks Trump may have initially entered the 2016 race "to increase his brand ... Let's face it, that's a lot of free publicity, when you run for president." Soon the Trump candidacy became a juggernaut.
Vakulskas is an attorney, a political independent and a son of former Woodbury County Republican Party Chairwoman Barb Vakulskas. Brian Vakulskas said Clinton "represents the old guard," and that America needs shaking up, so he voted for Trump, even if it wasn't a full-bore backing.
He said "Trump, to me, is not a real Republican," since he has supported Democratic ideals and has cobbled together a political philosophy of varying stands.
Vakulskas recognizes Trump is controversial, but ultimately thinks the eye-opening statements from the campaign trail will be replaced by a more presidential vibe.
"It will be a much more moderated tone from the rhetoric of the campaign," Vakulskas predicted.
Younger brother Dan Vakulskas, also of Sioux City, remembers his sibling's autograph phase.
"It generated quite an extensive collection. Brian was never shy about mailing letters to famous people for autographs. While others were asking for movie or rock stars or athletes, he would ask those in the (Washington) beltway and big business," Dan Vakulskas said.
Dan Vakulskas thinks his brother's letter could reach a notable place in future years.
"I could see a piece like that being displayed in the Trump Presidential Library in New York City. Historians are always interested in sifting through correspondence penned by important figures and, in my opinion, this piece of correspondence fits the bill -- it is a window into his mind at the time," Dan Vakulskas said.
Brian Vakulskas said the Trump letter has certainly risen in prominence among his collected items.
"It was simply an autographed picture that I have of a celebrity, and now it has turned into probably my favorite piece of political memorabilia," he said.