It’s a family affair

Published 4:47 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

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As I write this column, preparing it for Wednesday’s paper, I have no idea of how Washington’s race for mayor and city council members will turn out. I write my column on Sunday evenings and send it in by email, so by the time you read this, it’s a pretty good chance the winners will be named.

It was a great campaign. There were so many excellent candidates for the positions. We all worked to register new voters and took the time to go into communities to listen to and talk with people about what their concerns were.  We helped people to learn how city government works. Some candidates took the time to teach people how to do research about candidates and learn how to discern facts from political fiction.

The campaign life was new for me and several others, but I have to say, it was as though I was reliving everything I learned in Mrs. Muriel Brother’s Civics class in high school. I loved that class! The campaign was also challenging for me because I was not able to work my campaign as I had hoped. I suffered a severe DVT that affected four veins in my left leg that made focusing on the campaign very difficult. My health became my number one priority. I thought about dropping out of the race all together. But I received so much love, support and encouragement from people in Washington to keep going. I will never have enough words to express my gratitude to them.

One of the things that also kept me going was the legacy of public service that runs deep in my family that began a few years after the Civil War.

A distant relative, Alfred D. Payton (sometimes spelled Peyton), ran for Magistrate in Washington in 1869. He became a Washington City Councilman in 1887, and in 1888, he served on City Council along with John H. Small. He was a Washington Township Commissioner by 1889.

My great-great-great uncle, Isham Kea served as a Registrar or Judge and Inspector of Voter Elections in 1882 in Tarboro.

My grandfather William Sweedy Cozzens, a well-known businessman in Washington, helped with Blood Collection Drives for the Red Cross during World War II along with Dr. Nathaniel Dowdy and other influential community leaders in the early 1940’s. My grandfather was a member of Spring Garden Baptist Church and was among the members there who helped bring Dr. Booker T. Washington here to speak at the Brown’s Opera House in 1910.

Public service is in my DNA and I want to serve Washington to the best of my ability. With this in mind, I win the election either way, with a seat on city council or I will celebrate the winning respect of having so many people who came along side me and encouraged me to keep going and doing what I have always done in Washington, helping to make this town the best it can be. I appreciate you all. Thank you!

Leesa Jones is the co-curator of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.