I don't really believe the caption above in our days of national polarization, but it is a well known political mantra. It turned out to be true, however, in our recent non-partisan elections in the Town of Huntersville, NC. Local engagement made a big difference.
I was part of a group of four Huntersville citizens who care about the environment and became engaged in this election. Our team consisted of a female college student, a retired female nurse, a semi-retired male small business owner and me. There were six seats open for town commissioner with only one incumbent among a pool of 17 candidates. There were three people running for mayor. My group of four divided up all 17 candidates running for town commissioner. We interviewed them by phone and/or email about their positions on development and issues related to the environment. Through this process we threw our support and little bit of money behind 6 candidates and one mayoral candidate.
And guess what? All six of those we supported were elected, along with the mayor. In fact, I gave a contribution to a young female on the ballot, thinking she didn't have a chance, but I simply wanted to encourage her because she cared about the environment more than anyone else I had interviewed. Old white men like me have been running things long enough. How's that working out! She was an unknown before the election. Well, she ended up being the top vote getter of all commissioners! (She is the first female from l-r in the photo above, taking their oaths of office).
The point I want to make is that local engagement can make a big difference. The bigger the race the less our individual efforts make. Conversely, the smaller the race, the more our individual efforts make. The slate of commissioners and mayor we supported indicated to us they would be more mindful of steering Huntersville to a greener, cleaner future. The powerful development interests will always have more money and probably, influence. But every now and then, the people who care about the earth, the water, the air, the trees, the animals (All God's creation as we say in the Christian tradition) rise up and make a difference.
I know our team of four ordinary citizens were not the deciding factor in this race. There were lots of things going on, most of which were unknown to me. So our team is not taking credit for this election sweep. Nevertheless, we participated, we engaged, we made phone calls, we asked questions, we made contributions and put signs up in our yards. We did our part.
I encourage people who care about the earth to become more actively engaged in places and processes that impact the earth. Tree huggers of the world unite! We can make a difference. More trees and less development is good for everyone in the long run. The oxygen they produce may be the air your grandchildren need to breathe 50 years from now.