No Offense Winston-Salem, But You're Starting to Look Your Age...

I'm Frank Eaton, President of the Forsyth County Young Democrats. This is an organization that has a lot of energy coming out of the 2008 elections. Many of us are veterans of the Obama campaign or other races, and the lessons we've learned are fresh and our perspective on the community renewed by the experiences we've had with voters in the precincts of Winston-Salem.

But Forsyth county faces a quiet crisis as its elected leadership ages, and the numbers tell us that in this regard, we're falling behind other growing cities in North Carolina. Our elected representatives reflect who we are; and right now, Winston-Salem's City government reflects a community that is aging faster than Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham and Charlotte.

We have one of the best City Councils in the state, made up of educated, engaged, creative people; and while they represent an enviable and hard-won demographic balance in most ways, none of them are under fifty-three years old. In fact, the two youngest elected officials in Forsyth County, Dale Folwell and Robert Clark, are Republicans. But in the fastest growing metropolitan areas of our state, young Democrats take leading roles in city government.

I want to introduce you to one in particular: Charlotte Democrat Anthony Foxx. Foxx was elected to the City Council at the age of 34. Now in his second term, he's the front runner for the Democratic nomination for mayor. He's a popular candidate and a product of Charlotte's commitment to cultivating young leaders and placing them at the forefront of civic life. He also represents the city's legacy of growth and urban renewal which has made it the economic success that it is today.

In the years ahead, it will be essential for Winston-Salem to attract new businesses by advertising vigorous, modern thinking and to encourage entrepreneurship by presenting our community as the best place in North Carolina for young businesses and new lives to begin.

This chapter of the Young Democrats has pledged to devote 2009 to the arrival of a new class of leaders and the development of a generation that will undertake public service in an age of unequalled need. We are recruiting candidates who understand that they take on a legacy project for the life of our city: to guide each ward through the challenges of today to a common prosperity.

The input of all Democrats is essential to this mission and I end this message with a call to action: Name five democrats under forty who are, or could be, on track to take elected office. Think of men and women in your church, civic organizations and at work; think of the children or grandchildren of your peers who show brilliance and promise. Encourage them to consider public life...

Our 2009 municipal elections present us with a remarkable opportunity, one which won't come again until 2013. This year, we can put a face and name to Forsyth County's Democratic future. It starts now... with you... and the faith you place in the energy, strength and wisdom of a generation, rising. Thank you.



Great job, Frank!!


 Obviously, it will take many, many external hard drives to achieve our goals, but with your support I believe we can make it happen...

How 'bout you Frank?

You've got what it takes man!

great video

Good for you Frank.  This is a great video, and a great message.  Now you just have to "take it to the streets" and get those candidates!

"Keep the Faith"

Young whippersnapper

Look our age!  Hmmph.  I'll take you on in a marathon any time, kid.

Here I shamelessly worked you for a year on my statewide campaign with no compensation, and this is the thanks I get.  Stirring up trouble.  Recruiting other kids to run for things.

And stay off my lawn!

Dan Besse


Dan, you are the youngest old man I know. 

We shall spare you this time, Dan... this time...

Congratulations! As the youngest Democrat on the Winston-Salem City Council (Age 54?) you're safe.

And what can I say? You taught me everything I know.

When the young step up, some others must step aside...

This is great Frank.  We need a dialogue within the progressive movement about the engagement of young people.  

I love your call to action.  As so many local organizations try to figure out their path forward post-2008, it is critical that they put effort into identifying young people who can pursue elected office.  In particular, I think that we should be looking for people who can follow in the Obama paradigm of working effectively across lines of difference to pursue pragmatic solutions for difficult problems.

A corollary conversation that is even more difficult is this: In order for new leadership to develop, older people must step aside to make space for the younger people to gain experience.  How and when will older people do so?  What role do political organizations have in directing or encouraging older people to step aside?  What roles can experienced leaders take when they do step aside?  And then, how can we all work together.

I can guarantee one thing... If political organizations continue on with pre-2008 organizing techniques and cultural norms, young people will not engage in their work.  If your organization needs some examples of how young people can organize and transform the political process, check out these great organizations: (my fave, right here in NC!) (look up Jefferson Smith while you're at it) 

Good stuff


Career Cessation in a World Without Term Limits

The question I'm asking older Democrats in this community is this: What's your plan? Very simply, WHAT DO YOU SEE HAPPENING NEXT? After you?

What I'm hearing in some wards (and looking toward next year, in our House districts) is that these guys plan on dying in office. Seriously. They plan on doing the job until they DIE.

In that scenario, what becomes of mentorship? Where are our elder statesmen? Our emeritus political class?

The reason a lot of folks are sticking it out is that they don't see anybody in the arena who can take their place. These are energetic, intelligent people! The problem is that they just don't see anyone as energetic or intelligent as they are...

Point in case: Is Jim Hunt LESS influential now than he was in office? I'd argue "Hell no." He walks the countryside AS A GOD.

But back to my original point: We don't have term limits on the municipal level. It's crazy and destructive to urge ambitious young Democrats into contested primaries against a Tammany Hall ward boss of a dino-Dem incumbent. It's got to be THEIR IDEA. They've got to see the moral imperative behind career cessation. They've got to see the next step on their own.

So our goal this year is to lay out a buffet of good candidates and a strong background organization behind them.

'Cause if there's one thing old people like, it's a buffet, right?

Not a buffet, but a place to put to pasture

The state's myriad board and commissions are generally used to move people out of office.

(See former Orange County Commissioner-now Employment Security Commission Chair Moses Carey or former Senator-Utilities Commissioner-now State School Board Chair Howard Lee).

If you want to get rid of someone, provide them a place to go.



Well, I love a buffet but I can't get away with it anymore. Harder to drop the pounds than it used to be. Yah, 54 is right, Frank.

I assume everyone knows I'm joking in ribbing Frank. (I know Frank does.) But just in case, be it known that the older Dems in Winston-Salem (in office and not) are delighted by the recruitment of younger activists and candidates.

Dan Besse

Well Done, Frank

@ Frank
   I live in Winston and would love to help. My girlfriend and I have recently become more active throughout the state. In fact, she is the one who Facebooked you before Inauguration about trying to do a "Crawford" screening night @ Krankies. Please get in touch. We have plenty of ideas for getting W-S kicking again. I'd also like to start a Drinking Liberally group around here to have some non-formal, free flowing idea sessions. Let's make that work.

That being said, thanks to @ Graig for all the advice and websites. I spend a lot of time in Durham and may end up moving there (who knows?). Traction looks fantastic. I am looking forward to helping out there too.

Great job everyone!

-- A liberal originally from Yadkin County. Did I just blow your mind?

We'll meet this week.

Winston-Salem desperately needs a new "power couple"! (And my girlfriend HATES politics).

Glad to have you

As a proud board member of Traction Action I can tell you that there are a lot of ways to get involved, even if you don't move to the triangle.

"Keep the Faith"