Kestenbaum, fifty-three, is a big, affable guy with a mustache and sideburns and a broad forehead framed by large glasses. He answers questions at length, and with a professorial manner perhaps inherited from his dad, who taught American history at Michigan State. His omnivorous interests are reflected in his labor-of-love websites: politicalgraveyard.com lists vital stats of, it seems, every American who’s ever held public office, while potifos.
com is devoted to his many other passions—such as folk music, elevators, octagonal houses, and names of streets. He also frequently comments on local issues on arborupdate.com.
Kestenbaum’s background is as diverse as his interests: a largely self-taught computer programmer, he also holds a law degree from Wayne State, and he studied historic preservation as a grad student at Cornell. Before becoming clerk, he taught historic-preservation law at EMU and worked at the U-M’s Survey Research Center.