Highland Native Leads Virginia Democratic Party

The 2016 presidential election has a hometown connection for residents of Highland County, with native  Susan Swecker serving as the chairwoman for the Virginia Democratic party. She spoke to us about her early interest in politics, and what brought her to that position.

“I am a proud native of Highland County – daughter of George and Nancy Swecker of the Blue Grass valley, and I live both here, I’m a resident here, and I live in Richmond. And I’ve gotten to fulfill my life-long dream of being involved in government and democratic politics and currently serve as the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

“Well, I think everything in life is a little bit of good timing and good luck, and hard work, hopefully. I was thinking earlier about “How did I get started in this – what was that spark for me as that young girl, wanting to get out and see the world and decide what I wanted to do – and, I just remember, we were that family that talked about politics and current affairs around the dining room table. I was a kid also that sat and listened when there were family discussions, and sometimes heated family arguments, and if you just sit in a corner and listen, you can learn a lot. And I became very interested in politics in the ‘60’s, late 60’s. We think we’re in turbulent times now, and we are, but those were very heady times too, with the assassination of President Kennedy, followed by martin Luther King and then Robert Kennedy. And I was, as a young teenager, very taken with Robert Kennedy and his philosophy and ideals, and heartbroken when he was assassinated.

“So that is sort of at the core of what got me thinking about what I wanted to do, which was really a journalist first. And then moved into, as I started reading more, about campaigns, and you’re in the next campaign cycle – and it was either Time or Newsweek magazine, and I was reading about the new campaigns, and political consultants, and professionals, and people that ran campaigns, and that there was this degree you could get called political science, and I was like “I think I want to do that”. And so I did.

“I have been Chairwoman of the Democratic Party about a year and a half. I have been a long time member of about twenty years of the Democratic National Committee, a position you also run for, or you can get appointed to. And I was also involved in local and state and national politics in other ways. So when the opening came up, and the current Chairman decided not to seek the term, I sought it, and was gratified that I won without any opposition, and here we are.

She explained that there’s no such thing as a “typical day” during a presidential election season.

“You’re right, it’s really not a typical day, but every day has something new and exciting and a little bit of adventure in it. And then there’s also the mundane. There is the actual idea of running a business, quite frankly. We are a pretty big business – I have a large staff, we have to raise a lot of money, with Virginia particularly being a battleground state in a presidential year, there is a lot going on. So there is talking to the press, coordinating with your communications director – there are candidates that are principles – I mean we have our own Virginian running as vice-president on the ticket, which is very exciting. So that’s an extra component to it.

But also then, it is the very average mundane things of making sure that you are staffed adequately, handling the administrative part. There is an ongoing infrastructure that year in and year out you have to sustain. Not exactly as exciting maybe as the week we spent in Philadelphia – that comes around every four years. That wasn’t typical, but it sure was exciting, and an experience that I’ll never forget, and always be proud that I was a part of that.”

Stay tuned as Ms. Swecker shares more of her thoughts from an insider’s perspective on what makes this year’s election historic and unique.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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