The enterprising person selling “memory enhancement kits” would do well to pay a visit to Dendron, Virginia.
Population: just under 300.
Number of people who remembered to run for mayor or town council this year: -0-.
What were some of the reasons townspeople gave for forgetting that there was an election?
A. Had to go to the hospital.
B. The wife passed away.
C. Cancer struck.
D. Some grandchildren were born.
E. Had a full-time job and the two young kids just got too overwhelming.
F. All of the above.
“We forgot,” said Ruth Sheffield, a current councilwoman in the tiny Surry County town. “We usually have a reminder and we didn’t get that reminder. We should have known. It’s our fault.”
Today, the Town Council’s duties — they meet once a month, in the town’s tiny red municipal building — involve sending letters to property owners who aren’t maintaining their homes and dealing with citizen complaints about barking dogs.
On a recent afternoon, Dendron’s main street was completely empty, except for the occasional car passing through every 20 minutes or so. An elderly woman broke the stillness by crossing the street. Most of the action took place at the town’s only market, where people wandered in throughout the day to buy cigarettes.
Maybe a string around the finger would have helped remind people?
“It just escaped my attention,” said Councilwoman Misti Furr. “I work full-time, I have two young kids, and I just missed it.”
The council’s part-time clerk usually lets the council members know when it’s time to file again, Sheffield said. But she was just busy this year — she also staffs the town post office. By the time she left panicked afternoon messages on the council members’ answering machines the day of the filing deadline, it was too late.
The town needs to fill six open council seats and the mayor’s position.
Longtime Mayor Ben Muncy, known for being so devoted to his little town that he would personally collect utility bills and fix water connections, is in the hospital with cancer. His wife passed away the day before the deadline. The current council members plan to run write-in campaigns for their seats,
“Anybody can run that wants to,” Sheffield said. “But it’s not like we have a whole lot of citizens.”
At the local market, the owner jokes that he’s going to run for mayor this year. His customers tap out their cigarettes, chat outside and occasionally discuss Dendron politics, if someone’s willing to listen.
The water system doesn’t work, they say. The new taxes are too high. Water bills are too high. Water quality’s too low. Why haven’t those potholes been fixed?
So there is at least one place in America where politics is not the most important thing on earth.
One place that probably doesn’t keep up with the latest rantings from the DailyKos.
One place in America where people think about their life, instead of politics.