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Wednesday, March 21 News

Board of Finance member a motorcycle star

Much of John "Buzz" Kanter's life has centered around motorcycles.

A motorcycle racer in the 1970s, he has been inducted to all three motorcycle halls of fame, has ridden coast-to-coast on antique Harley-Davidsons and runs several motorcycle magazines.

The aficionado is going into his third year as a member of New Canaan's government. In November, Kanter, 58, was sworn in to his second term as an alternate member of the Board of Finance.

But Kanter has no intentions of moving up the political ladder. He said he's on the board strictly as a businessman.

"I felt like giving something back to the community," he said.

"The board has some brilliant minds, but most come from large corporations."

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Kanter is the founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of TAM Communications, a Stamford-based motorcycle magazine publisher. Its flagship publication, American Iron Magazine, is focused on American-made motorcycles like Harley-Davidson.

A Stamford native, Kanter has lived in New Canaan for eight years. He said his entrepreneurial background adds a balance to the board.

"We have some brilliant people on this board and I am honored to be associated with them," Kanter said. "I might be the only current member who has launched and runs a small private business, so it gives me some perspectives others might not have."

Kanter said he finds it impressive that New Canaan has an elected Town Council and Board of Selectmen while its Board of Finance is appointed. "The Board of Finance needs to do what's needed, not what's popular with voters."

When asked if he had plans to run for a different position in the Town Hall, such as Town Council, he said it's "out of the question."

"Having sat through several budget seasons, I'm really impressed with the quality of work in our town," he said. "But no. I have zero interest in politics."

In September, Kanter plans to ride a 1936 Harley from Daytona, Fla., to Tacoma, Wash. The Motorcycle Cannonball Run requires that participants ride antique, pre-1937 motorcycles. In the event's first edition in 2010, Kanter rode a 1915 Harley from North Carolina to Los Angeles. In 2012, he rode a 1929 Harley from New York to San Francisco.

This year's nearly 4,200-mile trip begins Sept. 5 and lasts 17 days. Kanter is expecting to face hot sunny days and subfreezing snowy ones.

"Each event gets longer and harder," he said.

Kanter and his wife, Gail, created TAM Communications as the thesis for his master of business administration degree at the University of New Haven in 1989. Two years later, he purchased American Iron Magazine from near bankruptcy and grew it into what he calls "the best-selling Harley magazine in the world."

Kanter also publishes Motorcycle Bagger, Motorcycle magazine and American Iron Garage. American Iron Magazine is published every four weeks.

The magazine's associate editor, Tyler Greenblatt, a New Canaan resident, said working with Kanter almost doesn't feel like a job. He said the two often hang out together and go on motorcycle trips through the country. Last year, they rode to Milwaukee to cover Harley Davidson's 110th anniversary event.

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"It was really great," Greenblatt said. "And this is my job."

Kanter was inducted to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in 2012, the National Motorcycle Museum's Hall of Fame in 2004 and the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame in 2002.

His Cannonball team this year includes Pat Simmons, the vocalist and guitarist of the rock band the Doobie Brothers, and Simmons' wife, Cris, who writes for American Iron Magazine.

Kanter said he would not reveal the number of motorcycles he owns, but he said it's not as many as Jay Leno has.

The late-night talk show host, who is also a motorcycle hall of famer, is known to have a big collection of motorcycles.

"I have more than a dozen, but less than my friend Jay Leno," Kanter said.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter