I moved to Ladysmith, in Caroline County, just over a year ago and I have loved every second that I’ve spent here. As a political animal, it was impossible for me not to jump right in to the political waters (like Supervisor Jeff Black at our annual Polar Plunge). It took me a while to realize just how different Caroline County was from most other places I’ve lived. Caroline County residents are not overly partisan. They do not enjoy partisan politics. They do not seek to divide themselves over their political opinions, nor do they like to make their personal political philosophies public knowledge. Many of our local representatives run as Independents, unaffiliated with the local Caroline County Democrat and Republican Parties.
As a political animal, this is entirely the opposite atmosphere from what I was used to and I have learned many wonderful lessons about just how much better the world works when people speak to each other as individuals, as opposed to speaking to one another as Democrats or Republicans.
After starting Pendleton Penn in November of 2015, I had the opportunity to meet just about everyone involved in local government and local politics. As a Republican, I was surprised to find myself in numerous conversations with Democrats who were entirely comfortable discussing political issues, man to man, without the defensiveness and antagonism common to such discussions throughout the rest of the Commonwealth. In Caroline County, it’s relationships that hold our communities together and it’s relationships that move us forward.
Over the last eight months I have had the privilege of covering our county Board of Supervisors. I’ve had many questions and concerns and our Supervisors have always been willing to address them and to help me better understand the issues that effect us as a county. I’ve also watched our Board of Supervisors come together in ways that have been surprisingly positive. When I first began attending meeting, votes seemed to be perpetually and predictably split between factions on the board. Since last November, we’ve seen an increasing number of unanimous votes after hours of rigorous debate. Budget issues have been handled fairly, despite the fact that Caroline County does not have the kind of large tax base that permits a local government to splurge on expensive goodies for their residents.
I’ve attended town halls where Democrats and Republicans have come together, not to complain or attack one another, but rather to be informed and to openly discuss the issues important to the county as a whole. I’ve met Democrat community leaders who have been open to having the difficult social and political discussions that always seem to turn nasty in most corners of the Commonwealth. Not here however. Not in Caroline.
Heated debates amongst our elected officials are held, considered, and then set aside as they work together to bring jobs to the county. Many residents in Caroline County may not be aware that these are uncommon virtues, rarely found outside of the county.
Politics, like religion and sports, will always be a contentious subject; and I think it is wonderful that in Caroline County, residents are more interested in having friendly relationships with one another, than in tearing each other apart over their partisan differences or over some folks unfortunate support of the Cleveland Cavaliers, for example.
However, one of the things I have seen (the thing that has impressed me the most) is that there are a great many folks in Caroline County who are willing to discuss these issues, but are willing to discuss them with maturity, patience, and consideration. Agreeing to disagree is possible here. I have enjoyed debates with local residents that failed to bring us closer together on the issues, but which did not affect the mutual respect we had for one another. If I could bottle this up and sell it, I’d make a fortune.
With such a contentious presidential election going on right now and with so much vitriol and infighting taking place within my own political party, I wanted to take this evening to write about how much I appreciate Caroline County for its community and for the mutual respect and kindness I’ve seen all across the county. For those who have lived here all their lives, this may be something you take for granted or you may actually think that things are too contentious around here. If that’s the case, visit a Board of Supervisors meeting in Spotsylvania or Hanover or Henrico, then maybe you’ll see just how special Caroline County really is and how much more peaceful and pleasant it is to live here, as a political animal or not.