Nicole Candler is a Democratic Party activist from southwestern Jefferson County. She presently serves on the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee. She owns a public relations firm - the webiste is www.niccreative.com. Below is her commentary on changes - very recent ones - in the Jefferson County Democratic Party.
While most of Louisville braced for forecasted tornados and storms last evening, a wind of change swept through our local Party.
First, the Executive Committee accepted the resignation of one of its longest-running Chairs, Tim Longmeyer. After nearly 10 years in the post, it’s certainly understandable that he’d like to focus more of his attention on his career and the additional roles that come with that. And, I’m personally glad to hear that he seeks to spend more time with his family and children, ages 10 years to 22 months. We often overlook the sacrifice that his wife, Lynn Longmeyer, has made to our organization so that Tim can be involved.
I’m certain that I won’t be the only one who insists that he remain an active leader given his historical perspective and he certainly knows more about campaign and Party financing and rules than anyone else that I know. Plus, I’ve always admired his smoke and mirrors routine, where he can out talk even the most aggressive contender out of their argument. However, the greatest lesson that I’ve learned from Tim is that a true leader protects those that they lead. I’ve seen him go to bat for volunteers and has made it clear to only a few that they will NEVER be harshly critical of the work and NEVER call a volunteer on their failures because they are just that…valuable volunteers.
Last evening’s shock quickly turned to sadness when I joined the Shively Democratic Club for its final meeting. I’ve been a member of the 50 year old Club for only four years and joking that I’m certain I’m the only person in the world that holds both a Shively Democratic Club and a Madonna Icon Club membership. So, it was quite fitting that last evening speaker what Aaron Yarmuth, a young democrat for which many of us have hopeful expectations. However, hopeful expectations can’t maintain a social Club with a treasured, but aging membership.
It is of great concern to me that the Club members may look at the Club’s resolution as a fault of their own and I feel it is important to offer a small tribute to the impact they have had on this emerging Democrat.
My involvement with the local party was paved by a high school friend, Jack Walker who was President of the Club, and yielded his 44th Member at Large seat to me in 2006. He also nominated me as Secretary of the Club even before I had paid my membership dues. Without missing a step, I was quickly put to work by the incoming President and my LD Steve Fein, someone who asks a lot of their volunteers but also has a good perspective and appreciation for the change in demands on my family life. His wife, Deanna Fein would greet members at the door with our traditional booze and split the pot raffle tickets. When I was Secretary, I sat beside Shively Council member Patsy Mayes and one of the Club’s founding members Martha Schmuckie two women who helped keep Fein on track as we scribbled notes to him on Claude Prather’s campaign notepads.
Although their absence has been missing at recent meetings, the tables at our old location at the Legion Hall would be filled early with long-time volunteers Dottie Pruitt, Rose Renn, Betty Ryan (and her husband Gil Ryan), Irene Pitcock (who still paid her dues even after she became shut in), Bill and Helen Thompson, the Homericks and Steve Gahafer. And, comical relief was always provided by Jude Willis who’s sometimes inappropriate jokes with John Yarmuth were omitted from the minutes. Other familiar faces include Greg Dearing, a great friend who holds marathon strategy sessions in the kitchen at Joni Jenkin’s breakfasts during which we solve all political and Party problems. Plus, the room would filled with local electeds and a multitude of candidates including David Yates (and his grandfather Jim Yates), Dennis Horlander, Rick Blackwell, Mary Wooldridge, Vicki and Matthew Welch, Bryan Mathews, David Nicholson and Tony Lindauer. Plus, a Shively Club can hardly be called to order without the presence of at least one Jenkins. Although I wasn’t a member at the time, I understand that Drew Jenkins followed his grandfather Jim Jenkin’s footsteps by serving as Club President. And the meeting would rarely close without final comments from Joni Jenkin’s offering her traditional wisdom that should be sure to flip you ballot over and that come Wednesday (after a primary) we’re all Democrats and need to work together. The meeting is always followed by a pot luck dinner with a tasty contribution from Alice Jenkins who refers to me as Nicole Kidman and I appreciate the compliment.
Now-and-then, we were visited by Jerry Bronger, who used to live across the street from me, but our yard signs in the primaries never seemed to match. After this year’s Ford Dinner I had the opportunity to connect with Club member Al Bennett, and in true South End style learned that our degrees of separation are much smaller since he used to go fishing with my Aunt’s Uncle.
Then there is Nancy and Nadine Etter whom I often see at the local grocery store or at the gas pump. Nancy graciously stepped up as Club Secretary when I vacated that role and Dave Clark was encouraged to take on the Vice President role in the same way that I became Secretary.
When thinking back on the Club, I remember the support I received from Ken Koch and Tom Houchins when I made a last push for contributions for my very first political fundraiser. Their contributions put me over my goal amount. I also remember taking my Grandmother to vote in what would be her last primary election (after having experienced the installation of women’s right to vote and getting the chance to choose Hillary Clinton in a Presidential election) and handing over her ballot to Charlie Effinger who has been a Club member for as long has he has been a poll worker.
My time with the Club has been short compared to its duration and I know that I haven’t remembered to include all of those who gave of their time and effort to make it successful.
I regret that my emotions overcame me and I was unable to voice my appreciation to the group. Their contribution and the legacy they have offered is noted and they have had a great impact on emerging Democrats to come. In fact, their memberships will be honored by the nearby Grassroots Democratic Club who’s President Michael Bowman just received the Joni Jenkin’s Young Democrat of the Year award.
The winds of change that swept through our Party last night leaves me with a few questions.
What role will our young leadership do to fill these roles and carry forth a viable Party, especially with a critical Governor’s race in a just a few months, one of their own on the verge of becoming Secretary of State? Along with the release of the KDP’s delegate selection plan which leads up to a Presidential election, local Party elections and a national convention next year, what positions will our young leaders hold? Will they be permitted and supported to step up into new leadership and will they embrace that responsibility? Will our more seasoned volunteers trust their ideas to reformat our Party structure and welcome opportunities to connect with volunteers in new ways so that we grow a new generation of Democrats? Will this be an opportunity for the change we’ve all been talking about?
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