Oct 092016

imageAt the Watauga County Democratic Party’s Fall Rally, keynote speaker and candidate for Attorney General, Senator Josh Stein, highlighted his differences with his opponent on the ballot this fall: “I will be the top law enforcement officer for all the people of North Carolina, and I will not try to implement laws that discriminate against a class of our citizens.”

Stein was alluding to his opponent Buck Newton’s strong support for HB2, which wrote discrimination against transgender people into law and which has cost North Carolina millions in business income and a tattered reputation in the rest of the nation.

Stein also emphasized his preparation for the job. He was Senior Deputy Attorney General who headed the Consumer Protection Division for Roy Cooper for eight years. He “helped run the payday lenders out” of North Carolina; he represented the ratepayers in utility rate cases; and he worked to improve safety features on Facebook and MySpace to protect kids from sexual predators.

[Photos from the Rally at the bottom of this post]

Also featured at the Fall Rally were the inductees into the WataugaDems Hall of Fame:

2016 Hall of Fame


imageBetty Howe lives just across the line in Caldwell County, but she’s thrown in with us Watauga Democrats so consistently and to such good effect that we’ve decided not to hold it against her that she votes in a different county. Betty is and has been very active in many community groups. Her husband Rick calls her “a professional volunteer.” From the St. Mary’s annual Tour of Homes to the Blowing Rock Horse Show to driving people to doctors’ appointments — she’s the one that people call when they need something done, an event organized, or money raised. She has a perfect 25-year attendance record with the Rotary Club of Blowing Rock, which honored Betty in 2004 as its Citizen of the Year. She’s continued to be a very active member of the Rotary and one of its chief fundraisers. She was a part of the original, founding Board of Trustees of the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum. She has been an enthusiastic member of the Friends of the Library at Appalachian State. It was Betty, as a matter of fact, who suggested the commissioning of a series of murals in the atrium of the new library, which were completed by artist Brenda Councill. Betty holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Home Economics, the first from Appalachian State and the second from NC State University, and she was Director of Home Economics under the state Cooperative Extension Service, first in Newton for the first half of her career, and then in Lenoir for the second half. I mentioned her fundraising skills and her track record, but wait until you hear about her fundraising for the Watauga County Democratic Party. In 2013 and 2014, Betty teamed up with another of our Hall of Famers, Pinky Hayden, to raise almost $50,000 for the local party. It was that money that allowed us to hire and nurture such young staffers as Jesse Presnell, Ian O’Keefe, and Claudia Shoemaker, all of whom have gone on to outstanding political work outside of Watauga County. Betty Howe helped make us the strong county Party we are today. Betty, we are so very pleased to honor you among the 2016 inductees into our “Hall of Fame.”


Donna Duke in blue top

Donna Duke in blue top

When she moved to Boone in 1968, Donna Duke brought with her the conviction that citizenship carries with it the responsibility to engage in her community and to be an active participant in the democratic process. This translated into 40 years of active involvement in the League of Women Voters, 20 years as a Girl Scout volunteer, ten years on the Watauga County Planning Board, and 25 years (and counting) as volunteer weaving teacher at the Watauga Senior Center, not to mention countless volunteer hours for local campaigns (for Democrats, of course!) and environmental action groups. One early example — she joined with many others in the community in publicizing and funding a lawsuit to challenge the actions of the Region D Council of Governments in 1977-1978 — a challenge based on this premise, as quoted in one of the documents she saved from this time period: “We believe strongly that the central question is control of government by the citizens through elected representation that is accountable to the citizenry.” Her lifetime of engagement epitomizes how and why citizens can hold their representatives accountable. We specialize here in the Watauga Democratic Party in active members who know stuff, who study up, who ask questions — sometimes questions that annoy the people in power but questions that need answering. That description fits Donna Duke, who has been a student of local government, a persistent questioner of why things were the way they were, and why they weren’t better. As an advocate for landuse planning in Watauga, Donna was way ahead of her time and was certainly way ahead of where the County Commission was. She was a part of the coalition of citizens who fought to keep billboards off the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Byway, which is once again threatened by encroachment from a Maymead asphalt plant. And in case there is any doubt, Donna — according to her daughter Cama — will be voting for Hillary Clinton this fall, in part because she knows that women know how to get things done. Donna, we are so very pleased to honor you among the 2016 inductees into our “Hall of Fame.”


imageRuth Laughlin took over the management of our Hospitality House dinners hosted by the Watauga County Democratic Party more than two years ago, first in partnership with Marty Turlington and then going solo to keep good, nutritious food being served at our once-a-month meals. She has also been an active volunteer with our Meals-on-Wheels route in Cove Creek, and she is one of our tribe who keeps informed and stays up and writes letters and helps others keep informed and stay up. You may not know that Ruth came to Watauga County originally to run a bed-and-breakfast in the Meat Camp section, and she still lives in that house on Highway 194 north. Ruth has had what I — at least! — would describe as an adverturous and even a romantic life — once you get past the government work! After college, she moved to Washington, D.C., lived in famous Georgetown, and worked for the government (which she has described as incredibly boring). But then she took a job with the United States Air Force and moved to Germany. She’s traveled the world, and she’s fluent in Spanish. Back in D.C. from government work, Ruth took a job with corporate America and spent over 25 years with Xerox Corporation in Northern Virginia developing training programs for both its U.S. and its Mexican technology programs. Retiring from Xerox, Ruth decided to pursue her dream of owning and running a bed and breakfast, and we are very blessed that she chose these mountains and this county for that further adventure. According to her daughter Celeste, Ruth has a genius IQ, loves opera, collects folk art, is a mystery novel fanatic, and loves all things cats. Ruth, we are so very pleased to honor you among the 2016 inductees into our “Hall of Fame.”


imageAlice Naylor retired in 2008 as a professor emerita of the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University after 33 successful years of teaching. She was widely recognized for her passion and her expertise and became Chair of the Newbery Medal Award Committee, which has annually given one of the top awards in the nation for children’s literature. During the last ten years of her career at Appalachian, she served as director of the doctoral program in educational leadership at ASU. Upon her retirement, Alice was presented with the Order of the Longleaf Pine, the highest civilian honor given in the state. Also upon her retirement she worked with the Appalachian State University Foundation to create a charitable trust to benefit Parent to Parent Family Support Network of the High Country, which provides information, resources, and support to families of children with special needs. Never really retired, only re-directed, Alice collaborated with illustrator Gail Haley on a children’s book based on a true story of adoption: “Maya Rose Chooses a Grandmother,” which was published in 2014. Being that active professionally, you might guess that she also found time to serve the Watauga Democratic Party as an organizer of the Cove Creek precinct, where she is currently Vice Chair, and she has participated in phonebanks and door-knocking and other party activities. She was generous enough to allow us to feature her historic farmhouse in Zionville recently on one of our Home and Garden tours. There are many stories about Alice that illustrate her feistiness and her willingness to stand up against unjust power. During the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s, Alice was stopped outside her house by an FBI agent who told her that a former friend was naming communists, and wouldn’t she like to help her country by doing the same? “Is this how you are helping your country,” Alice demanded, “by stopping people on the street and asking them to name communists? You should be ashamed of yourself.” The agent turned tail and slinked away. Alice, we are so very pleased to honor you among the 2016 inductees into our “Hall of Fame.”


imageHarvard Ayers is not your run-of-the-mill environmental activist. He is a doer of deeds, a shaker of the status quo, an achiever, a mover of mountains of bad assumptions and faulty science. We’re so lucky to have him as a part of our community! Harvard has founded no fewer than seven non-profits since 1977, including Appalachian Voices, still going strong and headquartered in Boone but operating all over the Appalachian region as a crusading voice against mountaintop-removal coal mining, among other causes. He founded the Southwest Native American Arts Foundation principally to support and promote the artwork of a Zuni Indian muralist in New Mexico. He founded the Coal River Mountain Watch and Arctic Voices and most recently, Climate Voices and The Climate Times, where he is currently Executive Director. During all this activity he was also teaching a wide range of anthropology courses at Appalachian State University. For some 44 years he taught, and of course, like any born teacher, he never stops teaching. So he’s also collaborating on a book with Dave Harman called Train Wreck Earth. His earlier books include An Appalachian Tragedy, dealing with air pollution and the death of trees in the eastern forests of North America, and Arctic Gardens about the “ground zero” of climate change in Alaska and Canada. Harvard lobbys for solar energy; he advocates for preserving native and traditional cultures caught in the web of late-industrial environmental degradation; he writes op-eds; he founds non-profits to carry on the important work of preserving the earth for future generations. Amidst all that work, Harvard also found the time, starting in 2008 and continuing every election cycle since then, of registering thousands of first-time voters. He has gotten himself and his team of fellow retired professors into classrooms at Appalachian State to preach the non-partisan importance of voting in the community where you live, and starting in 2008 he exported the college-student registration movement to other universities in North Carolina and in other states. That was the year that Barack Obama was elected with overwhelming popular support from voters under the age of 25. Harvard, we are so very pleased to honor you among the 2016 inductees into our “Hall of Fame.”

Josh Stein with 2016 Watauga campaign staff. L to R, Christian Gentry, Alaina Doyle, Clark Streets, Caroline Sager, Josh Stein, Sam Shore, Chris Behrend, Emily Bish

Josh Stein with 2016 Watauga campaign staff. L to R, Christian Gentry, Alaina Doyle, Clark Streets, Caroline Sager, Josh Stein, Sam Shore, Chris Behrend, Emily Bish



Josh Stein addressing the large crowd at the 2016 WataugaDems Fall Rally

Josh Stein addressing the large crowd at the 2016 WataugaDems Fall Rally



© 2016 wataugadems.com