I would like to invite you to come along with me on a journey as I travel around Alleghany, Ashe, and Watauga Counties to talk with folks about their concerns, issues, needs, day-to-day reality of life’s ups and down, hopes, dreams, and vision of where we are, where we should be, and how we can get there. Legislators do not have all the answers. In most cases, legislators may not even know the right questions to ask. What legislators need to do is listen.

I am an optimist by nature and I am excited about the adventures that are sure to unfold on this campaign journey. In the past few weeks, I have met many fine people and visited many parts of our counties that are new to me. I’m sure to meet many more interesting people and to learn a great deal about our wonderful counties. Please join me on the campaign trail by following my blog.

All for One and One for All

After the recent redistricting following the 2020 census, District 93 is now composed of Alleghany, Ashe, and Watauga, all beautiful counties bursting with history, and generations of folks with ties to the land and the culture. I’ve learned that District 93 encompasses over 900 square miles and is home to 91,551 residents, and an untold count of wildlife, pets, and livestock. We have 51 inches of rainfall and 200 days of sunshine in an average year. But then no year is ever average. We experience flooding, ice storms, blizzards, and earthquakes – all escalating as a result of climate change.

Our mountain soils are usually a grayish brown loam, stony, shallow, and on steep slopes, allowing extensive pastureland and some crops, and certainly Christmas trees. However, there are pockets of soil that are fertile and have long supported lush agricultural practices. The High Country has a surprising history of organic growing and bio-sustainable agriculture. We do an amazing job at getting produce directly from farmers to people’s kitchen tables. We can boast about our vibrant farmers markets and local fruit stands. I’m looking forward to learning more about the livestock industry beyond the occasional stray cow that wanders into our garden. We have many small family farms producing specialty products like honey, jams, molasses, herbs, cheese and milk.

At the same time, many of our remote hollers and mountainous areas qualify as “food deserts” because of the dearth of markets available to sell fresh produce and meats year round. And, we have a housing shortage everywhere! Affordable housing, luxury housing, apartments, single family homes are all hard to come by these days. And we struggle to find the balance between preserving our woodlands and waterways, the peacefulness of our natural habitats and the need for growth and development.

Unique and yet so much the same

Alleghany hosts several annual cultural festivals and events rooted in the region’s mountain heritage and is home of the beautiful Doughton Park National Recreation Area. Ashe County is the Christmas tree capital of the world and we all appreciate a second Christmas in July celebration. And Watauga is not just a University Hub but also an exceptionally beautiful mountainous destination. None of this is by chance. These accomplishments are the products of strong leadership, hard-working people, and careful management of the natural opportunities provided by our mountain paradises.

Our art communities are strong and diverse and represent old mountain traditions as well as contemporary works that appeal to locals and visitors alike. There is a generosity among our artists, eager to share their talents, nurture young artists, and ensure that ancient traditions are carried forward for future generations.

Listening to Learn

There is so much to learn and to share about our district. I plan to reach into every corner of the district, to talk to community leaders, to knock on doors, and ring phones. And then just listen.

Listen to the single parent with small children who is struggling to pay rent, put food on the table, and can’t get a job due to not being able to find daycare or have reliable transportation. Listen to the farmers who can’t find a local market for their product or are so overburdened with regulations that they can’t afford to continue farming. Listen to teachers and professors, whose primary responsibility is to prepare our next generation of leaders, discuss the challenges of teaching today as they say they are not treated with respect by parents and administration, have overly burdensome extra- curricular activities requirements and training, are not treated as professionals, and are grossly underpaid.

Listen to health care workers as they are exhausted, both physically and mentally, from dealing with two years of the worst pandemic in our history. Listen to workers who have given a lifetime to a manufacturing job only to have it outsourced overseas. Listen to folks who can’t afford housing because of gentrification. Listen to parents who are struggling to buy groceries or gas because of inflation or plain old hard times.

Coming Together to Meet our Challenges

And I want to share what I learn with all of you. We have so much to share, so much to protect, and so much to improve. It is by listening that we will learn what the issues are in our community. I hope to bring community members together to solve problems. Let’s learn, protect, and improve together…Starting now!