Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Wilkes County On My Mind

Current Board of County Commissioners in Wilkes

Those guys are all not Democrats. Here is the single Democrat running for county commission in Wilkes this year -- 

Laura Beth Prevette (prefers to be called "L.B.")

Unlikely contest? Wilkes is notoriously Republican. Democrats are beaten just about every time. Sometimes Democrats don't even run. But L.B. Prevette could be Wonder Woman in horn rims. Listen to her talk. Read what she's written. She's smart, has a wry sense of humor, and talks a straight, plain English that wholly captures her intelligence. "We're the people that work," she declares and wonders why that isn't enough. 

She's native to Wilkes County down five generations of farmers, which frames a good story about return of the prodigal: "As a farm family we lived paycheck to paycheck. I didn’t have the nicest clothes, didn’t fit in, and my internal clock counted down to the day I could leave Wilkes County and never look back."

"My father died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 39 when I was just entering my sophomore year at Wingate; and that was the end of my world. Dad was my world. He was a wonderful man, the definition of a servant leader who worked on the farm all day and then came in for a glass of grape Kool-Aid before heading out to help a neighbor on theirs."

With the passing of her father, L.B. had to quit Wingate and work waiting tables to help support the family. She worked several jobs and then after a year or so she took off for Reno, Nevada, to go back to school. Being gone always helps scrub one's spectacles, and L.B. came back to Wilkes with new appreciation for home and its possibilities, and she took a job at Lowe's Home Improvement. Isn't that the "quintessential Wilkes story," L.B. asks, ironically -- "from a chicken farm to Lowe’s."

She's got vision: "The story of Wilkes County is a story of makers: makers of moonshine and music. — We made a sport [NASCAR]. We made as many millionaires per capita as anywhere in the country [Lowe's] and while we’re stubborn (sometimes to a fault), we’re creative and because of that we have a future. Wilkes hosts some of the best hiking and wineries on the East Coast. Combine that with restless energy and character and resolve. Invest in transportation, housing, hospitality and entrepreneurship, and you’ve got an economy."

"I want us to invest in ourselves (because the best jobs here were always made in Wilkes) and to give young people a seat at the table; to provide incentives for college graduates to come home; and to prioritize folks who want to work and support themselves and only need an opportunity. I want you to feel the same sense of pride — about our history, our geography, our people, and our future — and I want you to feel hope again. I want that to be our story."

L.B. Prevette is an unconventional candidate. Compare her to the male phalanx pictured above. But she's embraced by the Wilkes Democratic Party, and that's a spunky, resilient bunch, and in a year like 2018 (need I say it again?), any frigging thing can happen. But not without work. Not without connecting with a fluid voter base. I wish L.B. had a real website, and more activity on Facebook. The new voters she could energize in Wilkes are computer age millennials, many of whom probably haven't been bothering to vote (after all, Republicans, like the gentlemen above, seem set in the concrete of local habit, and will last for generations). But L.B., with her generational straight talk, could energize a whole new segment of "step-up voters."

She pushes back against the prevailing media image of Wilkes County (as a depressing post-industrial, foothills backwater), particularly an article that ran in the New York Times: "I’m angry at reporters who come to Wilkes to write about overdoses and abandoned factories — but I’m mad at myself, and everyone else who let that become our story and who accepted decline as our fate; who became ashamed to be from Wilkes whether they moved away or stayed. I didn’t always feel that pride. I had to rediscover why I cared."

Isn't this the sort of millennial we want in government? Isn't this exactly who we need?

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