“Oh, where have you been Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?” What happy childhood memories that little perky song conjures up for me. Actually, I have not given that song the first thought in over 60 years until I left humming it last week after an enjoyable afternoon lunch with District 44 State Representative Billy Richardson. A local Fayetteville attorney and longtime friend, Richardson was appointed to complete the term of Democrat Representative Rick Glazier,  who resigned in August 2015 to take the position as Executive Director of the N.C. Justice Center. 

Billy ran for the Senate 19 seat and lost to Wesley Meredith in an ugly, contentious and expensive race. Hmmmm. Ugly, contentious and expensive are words that pretty much describe the nature of 21st century politics these days at all levels of government. But, not on this day. Not at this luncheon. I really got the feeling that Richardson wants to do the best job he can for children, education and the citizens of District 44, as do his Republican rivals. Come November, Richardson will defend his seat from either District 9 Republican Fayetteville City Councilman Jim Arp or fellow Republican contender, retired engineer Richard Button. Button ran for the State House in 2014 and lost to Rick Glazier by a narrow four-point margin. Both are good men and all three, I believe, want to do their best for this community and our state. 

To me, this means keeping an open mind, eliminating barriers, cooperating with each other and working across the aisle for the betterment of all. Taxes, education, energy, economic development, health care, redistricting. Oh, so many important issues that can only be addressed successfully through empathy, honest leadership, hard work and cooperation. State Representative John Szoka of District 45 is of this ilk. Honest, hardworking, logical and extremely dedicated describes Szoka. He is definitely, not a “placeholder.” Szoka, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel whose campaign slogan is “Principles, not politics,” thrives on principle and logic while taking head on important, tough, complicated issues with the fortitude and tenacity of a combat-ready soldier. 

My point is this: maybe, just maybe, the tide is starting to turn in local and statewide politics where a person’s character is becoming more important than the political party they represent. Richardson himself told me that regardless of party affiliation, he would work with anyone if it meant the betterment of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the state. I believe him and that is the way it should be. 

It’s sad that on the national scene, presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are wrongly criticizing Donald Trump for wanting to make deals. The art of the compromise is compromise. Stubbornness and blind dedication to party affiliations get us nowhere. So, unless we support and elect people with character and cooperative attributes, we will never be able to achieve the goals needed to build sound, secure communities and a great state.

Vote, and make your vote count this year. Vote for honesty and integrity. Vote for people who take on responsibility. Vote for people with character. Those people are out there. All we have to do is find and encourage them. Agree? Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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