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DATELINE STOCKBRIDGE: On running for Stockbridge town moderator, a first step into politics

It sure does take a village to run one little campaign, and every kind word and helping hand was appreciated. Thank you.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I am writing this on Sunday morning, May 19, two days before Election Day in Stockbridge. Win or lose, what I want to say about my first foray into politics won’t change. To some, that may seem strange, but, to a writer, all experience is fodder.

Running for office

I have been writing about politics for 22 years. This year, 2024, I agreed to run for office. As a columnist, I observe politics from the outside. Being inside politics is different—harder. Yet, having given my word, I was in the race.

Doing the work

I did the things I believed were mandatory in a democracy: introduced myself to the voters and asked for their votes. I also provided space in Stockbridge Updates for my opponent to introduce himself. I mailed hundreds and hundreds of handwritten postcards to Stockbridge voters, put up signs, made a video, and created a web page.

Then I did a thing I think anyone who wants to serve in a democracy should do: I asked the voters, “What should my next step be?” In response, I received letters and questions.

Philosophy

A friend wrote a letter to the newspapers (one printed it; the other didn’t) articulating his worry and his philosophy:

It appears that our national bent towards disinformation and ad hominem attacks has reached our small Town of Stockbridge’s politics.

Vote your conscience for your preferred candidates.

Keep in mind what is the best choice for Stockbridge. Differences of opinion are healthy and often constructive. Please let’s keep it civil and truthful.

Gary Pitney

I reposted it because it is my philosophy too. I acted on that philosophy by never writing a bad word about my opponent or his supporters. Seems to me, in a village this size, if you want any community at all, you need comity. Also seemed to be, win or lose, that the day after the election would arrive and village life would go on.

Friends

It was a delight to sit down with Lee Select Board Chair Bob Jones and discuss my first run for office. He is a font of knowledge and experience. He also manages to win 70 percent of the vote whenever he runs.

It was fun and informative to sit with Gene Dellea, Michael Wise, Michael Wilcox, and Chris Brittian, experienced moderators all. They have, between them, well over 100 years of experience with the gravel.

I have helped Patrick White in his run for state representative by passing out chocolates before town meetings in 10 or 12 towns. Patrick is going to be one guy representing 18 towns. Then Patrick stood out with me at the Stockbridge post office saying vote for Carole and helped me with his brand of digital magic.

Friends and neighbors came to “kitchen cabinet” meetings, placed signs, wrote letters, sent campaign contributions, gave encouragement publicly and privately. Yikes, what a nice experience. Writers work alone; politics was an eye-opening experience.

It sure does take a village to run one little campaign, and every kind word and helping hand was appreciated. Thank you.

Of course poitics also takes an opposing team. On the other side of the back yard fence, there was different stuff.

The great sign controversy

Running for office, I received questions. With Ed’s permission, I am posting this one:

Carole, you have an impressive number of yard signs placed. A friend said to me that he believed you placed a number of them without asking the homeowner’s permission. Is that true?

Thanks, Ed Lane

My response:

Dear Ed, There are lots and lots of signs — every one was placed with permission. Moreover, many were requested of me and picked up from my house by the homeowners and placed by them. Anyway, thanks for thinking I had the time and energy to run around placing all those signs. Whoever your friend is, tell him the idea is silly. Can you imagine, if I placed a sign without permission, how long it would be before the owner took it down? Maybe three to five minutes? Not only would I never even think of doing anything like that, nothing about it would be a good idea.

There’s more: Can you imagine someone went to the police and asked the police to go around and take my signs down? Amazing but true. The police would not violate free speech or political expression in the shape of yard signs. They did not touch one.

One person was asked to take his down.

Someone else characterized my signs as pollution in print. A friend said, “That kind of talk pollutes our political process and what America stands for.” Maybe so, and imagine if next year the person who said signs are pollution wants to put up yard signs for himself or his chosen candidate?

Here’s what I know. We are a community. That is more important than who wins any one election. If we forget that, we lose much more than an election. We need to vote our preference and, at the same time, protect our democracy and protect our community. Friends can disagree—even about who should be Stockbridge moderator—and still get along. We are a small town; we know each other in many ways. That is Stockbridge. Just chatter—unless it takes hold and changes us.

Ed, please feel free to call and discuss and to share with anyone else. Best to nip the silly stuff in the bud.

Everything is political

I posted a cute photo of a puppy wagging its tail in fervent hope for a bone. I wrote:

It is a beautiful day. It is one of the Berkshire ‘aren’t we lucky days.’ I went to dump, post office, bank — the usual run and I was thinking. If I had the pick of all jobs, I would be the person who gives the dog a bone. What fun. What job satisfaction. And the response? Unconditional love, licks and wags. The world’s best job.

Then followed dozens of responses—all political. Why not enjoy the moment, the rarity of sunshine in April and the fun of giving a dog a bone? Make smiles and move on. Nope, in season, everything is political.

Sadly one enthusiastic supporter of my opponent misspelled her chosen candidate’s name. Oh well.

The bull horn and the whispers

Doesn’t everyone know, honestly, there are no secrets in a village? No matter who you tell, it makes the rounds. If you say “don’t tell,” it enhances the fun of sharing. Every negative came back to me within the hour with attribution. Which one or two people wrote three or four letters with different signatures. Who reported signs to the police and called for their arrest. Who told which town official who would “destroy the town” if they win. Like “Pick-a-litte Talk-a-little” in Music Man, there was the bull horn and the whisper campaign. What were they thinking? That no one knew? Everyone in a village knows everything.

Here’s the thing: Why do it? Is there really someone for whom winning is all?

Contemplating the next step

My father said, “The smaller the prize, the bigger (and nastier) the competition.”

Moderating one meeting a year in a village with 1,725 voters is a smallish prize. I hope Papa was wrong.

Contemplating the next step—long step, short legs. Photo by Carole Owens.

Win or lose, as a next step, I will encourage folks to be kind and give the dog a bone, give a neighbor nourishment. Mary Flynn, the consummate politician, said, “Give the good dog a bone, and the bad dog two bones.” I may live long enough to understand that second part. Until I do, I am out of politics.

For now, I am content being a political columnist rather than a politician. A historian rather than a part of history. And, if I win? I will, to the very best of my ability, be an apolitical New England moderator.

Feeding the birds. Photo courtesy of Carole Owens.
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