Each month, the National Democratic Training Committee highlights the work of a local party leader who is doing outstanding work in their own community. This month’s local leader － Bethe Goldenfield of Warren County, Ohio － was nominated anonymously:
Bethe took to heart the organizing model of the 2008 Obama campaign, and instituted regional teams in her county when she became chair. A decade later, her team leaders still meet once a week at the county party headquarters — every week, in and out of election season. Although Warren County is overwhelming Republican, Bethe works really hard to make sure every Democratic vote is identified and turned out. It’s one of a handful of Ohio counties that voted more Democratic in 2016 than in 2012.
When I reached out to Bethe she was finalizing plans for their annual Spring Gala (where turnout is on track to break records) and preparing to break another record at the upcoming May 8th Primary Election:
You are set to elect more Democratic precinct executives this year than ever before. Tell me about that!
We recruited a whole bunch of new people this time for central committee, including new activists who got involved after the 2016 election. A lot of them are women, and I’m like “Bring ‘em in! The more people the better!”
I think people feel and understand that there’s no admission test other than wanting to do what Democrats believe in. Our mantra is: “We are Democrats because we care about the world around us.” I think that helped bring in a lot of people and helped retain people who have been with us a long time.
We out-recruited the Republicans this Primary Cycle!
Is that a first?
Yes it is and it is a great source of joy and pride for us! Many think they are the “only Democrat in their neighborhood”, so finding out that we accomplished this feat is really rewarding and encouraging.
What do you think has led to your success in recruiting?
We made it a conscious effort to reach out to people who came on board after the 2016 election.
We have a fabulous women’s group so we reached out to and encouraged everyone there. There are some terrific activists groups, particularly in Mason － I asked everybody to look in their friend network, book clubs, sports clubs, anything. Just think about people that might want to get involved and start asking people.
We made it very flexible because we realize people have a lot of responsibilities. There’s a continuum from doing a small amount to doing a lot, and we understand that. Whatever they can do would be beneficial.
Generally, whenever people do something, that gives them the confidence and incentive to do more. Sometimes, it’s just that they’re afraid to take the first step. So we try to make them really comfortable.
It was really a team effort to make people feel that it’s OK to get involved and do what they can do to make a difference. We respect everyone that comes into the tent. We have a big tent － that’s really it. And we work really hard.
We had a couple people who did a lot of heavy lifting, and a lot of people who did a little. And when everybody does something it has a lifting effect.
How did you get involved with your local Democratic Party?
The 2000 election, with the Supreme Court deciding the Presidency, brought into clear focus what elections are really about. So I got really involved.
When I moved to Warren County in 2003 I couldn’t find the Party, so I got involved with a Democratic club, and got really heavily involved in the 2004 election.
Warren County was where they locked down the board of election. Move On asked me to be a county coordinator, and that’s how I got involved in the official political stuff.
I was a neighborhood team leader for Obama in 2008. Then I became chair in 2010.
When you’re not busy with your party responsibilities, what else do you do?
This job really requires I work a ton of hours on this. I do have some hobbies. But I can tell you I work [on party business] probably 40-50 hours a week at least.
And it is a volunteer position, right?
It is. And this is the thing that’s really interesting. When people find that out － a lot of people are shocked to find that out － they assume it’s paid. They say: “Who in their right mind would do this otherwise?”
When I’m not doing that, we like to hike. I like to bike. We enjoy going to the symphony and the ballet. I started doing that again this year because I was forgetting what fed my soul. We go to the mountains － we love the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Acadia National Park in Maine, and the parks out West. I’m hoping to do that this summer because we need to have an opportunity to refresh and recharge to win in November
What do you love most about your community?
I love that we’re starting to get a lot of diversity and I love that. We’re starting to grow a big, connected progressive network. When we first moved here it really was not diverse at all. Now we have so many fun, interesting, witty, smart people that enjoy each other’s company.
And this is what I’ve found really encouraging － just seeing people blossom when they find like-minded others that they can be around and speak freely and openly. I think that’s one of my proudest accomplishments － giving people the opportunity and environment to find and use their voices and go forth and “make good, necessary trouble.”
What are some crucial things for local leaders to keep in mind?
- Be brave and audacious.
- Give everyone a chance to blossom and shine — it’s amazing what people can and will do when they know they have a chance and will be appreciated.
- Share accolades. Be generous with compliments and praise.
- Have lots of social events and opportunities for bonding over and above just purely political things.
- Give and do more than you ask of others.
If you could give one piece of advice to a newly elected chair, what would it be?
Listen. Listen to the people who have come before you. Know your county. Gather knowledgeable people and listen to everybody. But also have a vision. Understand where you are but have a vision. Don’t be afraid, and value everybody’s input, and go about putting that vision into practice.
I didn’t know anything when I came in. I had to learn and it was pretty overwhelming. But anyone with a vision who is willing to learn, listen, and work hard can make good — maybe even great — things happen.
If you know a Local Party Chair that should be recognized for their work, please let us know at [email protected].