The 2012 Campaign was life changing
Thursday January 10, 2013 | By:Christina Abt | Editorial
As you read this column, the New York State Assembly will have just convened its first official session of 2013. As I write this column, I waver between joy, in returning to my Heart and Soul assignment, and melancholy over not being a member of that newly convened assembly.
My campaign for the 147th NYS Assembly seat was a life-changing experience, and although I lost, I have no regrets. In fact, I find myself in full agreement with iconic Buffalo politician, Jimmy Griffin’s attributed quote, “Everyone should run for office once in their life.” Here, in no particular order, is why.
1) The people who populate the 147th region of Southern Erie and all of Wyoming Counties are interesting, hard-working, caring and fiercely dedicated to their families, their communities and their country. Every day, in meeting and talking with them, I was inspired and reminded why Western New York is such a wonderful place to live.
2) The natural beauty of the district is endless. No matter which direction I traveled, from Lake Erie’s shores to the rolling foothills of the Allegany Mountains, the vistas were amazing. There were moments when I actually stopped on my way to a campaign meeting or fundraiser to fully experience the wonders of our WNY landscapes.
3) The district’s architecture in which we all live, work and play defines our lives. Vintage Victorian mansions, classic one story cottages, historic barns and out buildings, unique hand hewn log structures, serviceable metal business complexes, faded, yet lingering half buildings, all of these and more gloriously highlight the varied communities where I campaigned. As well, they provided significant reminders of our shared pasts.
4) Statistics and economists tell us that the sky is falling in our latent Western New York business community. Yet hope springs eternal thought the district’s unique niche companies and agricultural dynasties that continually defy financial naysayers. However, the wealth of these businesses is not always apparent in a healthy bottom line. Rather, their success is more directly tied to the stamina and dedication of those in charge, and their positive ‘can do’ attitudes. Meeting these industrious business owners proved that a good future is possible for our region.
5) The not for profit organizations dotting the landscape of the district are substantial, and often little known. I was amazed at the wonderful work being accomplished throughout the rural towns and villages, primarily due to the strong volunteer spirit alive and well in these communities. Additionally compelling is that many of these groups function through the generosity of their neighbors, as opposed to relying primarily on tax dollars. And the philanthropic ringleaders that I met were often high school and college kids.
6) As the 147th is a primarily agricultural district, my campaign trail led through an impressive array of commercial, organic and community supported agriculture industries. The wealth of dairy products and fresh produce readily available, in our area supermarkets and road side stands, is a prime community benefit that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated. The affiliated agricultural businesses that prosper as well, further the Ag industry’s intrinsic value in our region.
7) The 147th is also a barnyard of cows, pigs, goats, sheep, lambs, chickens and even buffalo. Per the above point, that means that our area is further blessed with a wide variety of safe, healthy and affordable foods.
8) From the vast pool of Lake Erie to the many secreted ponds and creeks, our community possesses unestimatable wealth in the water that defines our landscapes.
From campaign work that I undertook on environmental safety issues and concerns, I clearly understand that our waterways are essential to our well-being and will undoubtedly one day raise our value in the world.
9) Culture and traditions form the foundation of our individual lives and allow us a more worldly perspective. The history of the 147th incorporates immigrants from across the globe. We, their descendants, proudly maintain our ancestor’s ways in celebrations, foods and traditional customs, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed along the campaign trail…even if it did result in my gaining an extra five pounds!
10) Spending seven months driving thousands of miles, shaking hundreds of hands, walking countless parade routes, imbibing chicken, chili, pancakes and some of the best homemade pies ever, all the while listening to people’s life stories told on meager farms and lakefront estates allowed me an incredible learning experience.
I learned about my neighbors, my community and myself. While this unparalled education well prepared me for a job title that I will not assume, it also provided me a wealth of new friends, a fresh self-perspective and the opportunity to return to what I love doing best…writing.