Does your town have a banjo player as Mayor? Well the folks in Mt Airy, NC have the opportunity to make that happen on November 7.
Ivy Sheppard is a radio host and producer on WPAQ, who performs with the South Carolina Broadcasters. She’s also an avid record collector, and serious student of Southern history and Appalachian culture. Though she’s only lived in Mt Airy this past five years, she’s well versed in the traditional ways of the Appalachian people. And she’s running for Mayor in the upcoming election.
Sheppard is positioning herself as someone who understands the need to hold fast to the old ways, while also looking for new ideas to help the citizens of this small city of 10,000 succeed in a global economy. As an old time musician and broadcaster, no one can doubt her bona fides regarding the traditional folkways, and she feels her experience as a small business owner/operator offers insights into how things work in 21st century markets.
But are the conservative folks in Mt Airy ready for a Mayor with spiky blond hair? We asked Ivy whether she thought her unusual career and appearance might be a drawback.
“I have been overwhelmed by the positive support I’ve gotten. It really has been interesting and neat; no matter what happens, we’ve started a discussion about getting younger people involved in city government.
I was walking through Wal-Mart the another day, and this woman came up and hugged me.”
Her name recognition is already strong given her high profile on the radio. Folks around town are mighty proud of their hometown station, and its 70 year history of supporting traditional mountain music.
“A lot of people in town know me from playing music, and from being on the radio. Even there I do things the old time way. I’m not pushing buttons to play music from a computer. I’m playing 78s, through tubes to tape.
There are new ways to preserve this old music, and we should be able to do the same thing with the traditional Appalachian culture we love.
I see a lot of green ‘Ivy for Mayor’ signs in people’s yards, so I think we’ve got a shot.”
She says that she’s not a total newbie when it comes to politics and governance.
“I studied political philosophy as an undergrad, but never really thought I would do anything with it. When we moved to town, I made friends with the previous mayor, who was a DJ at the rock and roll station that WPAQ shares space with. We talked a lot about her job as Mayor, and it started to dawn on me that I could do this.
One of the most interesting things about this campaign is that I have made it my business to learn as much as I can about city governance. And having some new ideas is a good thing as well.”
Ivy is running against David Rowe, who was elected when the previous Mayor stepped down for personal reasons. But she says she isn’t so much running in opposition to Rowe, who she described as a very good man, but to offer an alternative to voters.
“I’m enjoying the heck out of it. I’m on this super high intensity crash course – it’s fascinating. We just had a tour of our city government the other day. We have a great team working for the city!
I see myself staying involved no matter what happens, and the music community has really embraced this.”
And of course she’s got a bluegrass-themed campaign song.
Despite the light-hearted jingle, Sheppard is truly interested in helping the city adapt, and thinks that preservation and progress can go together.
“Decisions that we make today are really for ten years down the road – we can’t just accept the status quo. You don’t have to get rid of everything old when you try to move forward.”
Even if you can’t vote for her next month, you can make a donation to the campaign online.
Though it’s not something we often get the chance to do, Bluegrass Today enthusiastically endorses Ivy Sheppard for Mayor of Mt Airy, NC!