Tryon Diary: Admiring community leaders

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I recently ran into Judd Daniel on Trade St. and congratulated him on his new position as president of TDDA. He and his family are even newer to Tryon than I am, and here he is stepping into some very important shoes, committed to the betterment of Tryon. I’m impressed.

Is it because the town is so small that I’m more likely to know people in leadership positions? Or is it because the people here are just so special?

Shortly after I arrived in Tryon, I was at an estate sale with a friend who introduced me to the mayor, Alan Peoples. After living in Los Angeles for so many years, the idea of seeing the mayor—or any city official—rubbing elbows with a yard sale junkie like me was just plain crazy. And yet, here he was, the honorable mayor, friendly as can be, chatting with me about my new house and its history.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I also met Happy McLeod pretty early on in my Tryon life. She was kind enough to drive me and Paul all over town, giving us a tour of Lake Lanier and Hunting Country and the Mills House, Blackberry Hill. And then when she retired, I watched in awe as she ran for town council and dedicated her time and energy to the town after winning.

Along with other Tryonites, I attended an event at the depot where we could meet the candidates running for town council and ask them questions. I was amazed they were all so ready to devote themselves to the town.

I’m proud to claim our current mayor among my friends as well. I’ve watched Jim Wright include many people in conversations on improving the town, listening with sincerity to ideas and suggestions from everyone with no thought to political party or who’s right or who’s left. He just wants to hear from people who are on the side of the town.

I’ve always thought of politicians as ambitious, using public office as a stepping stone to more powerful positions. But I look at the community leaders here and see none of that. No one’s going anywhere—looking for a better place. They live here and just want to help make the community the best it can be. There’s no personal motive.

I made a new friend at the Literary Open Stage recently—a poet, and a volunteer, like I am, on the Lanier Library Poetry Festival planning committee.

His name is Lee Mink, and he’s running for Polk County commissioner. I know very little about his politics, but I love the can-do attitude he displayed at our recent poetry festival meeting. He came in, helped identify what needed to be done, suggested a plan, and left with a pledge to take care of it. I thought, wow, now that’s a natural leader. And a genuinely nice person. Plus, I like his poetry.

And that brings me to another friend and community leader, Renee McDermott. Once a county commissioner, Renee is now just a citizen like I am, only one committed to the care of Polk County. I’ve never met anyone so involved with keeping abreast of local issues. Her concern for the people here is truly admirable and I feel lucky to know her.

I’m lucky to know all these people. They all step in and do what’s needed with no thought of self, but only what’s best for us all. I wasn’t born a natural leader I’m afraid. But I admire those who were, and especially those here who do what they do simply because it’s needed.

When you see them on the street, at an estate sale, or a festival committee meeting, make sure and thank them for their service. They’re pretty special people.