Integrity and honesty are two characteristics of people who are keepers of democracy. Stacy and Jayme are both.

Democracy. A concept thrown around everyday in the American life, yet the meaning behind such a word, such a system is never discussed.

Democracy. An American normality said but never understood. An institutional foundation of our country said abundantly rather than used.

A luxury taken for granted for some or a sly game of chess for others. The game of chess for the American society is played by the higher the rank, giving you more moves than others.

So, with all that in mind: What does democracy mean to you?

When I think about democracy, two women come to mind. These women live out their democracy in a small rural community. They go out of their way to help those in need. Despite coming from opposite sides of the democratic spectrum, both focus on the ideas of “we” as a democracy rather than a leader or individual promoting democracy.

Jayme Wambold has been the alderman of the Oak Grove city council for two years and owns a construction company with her husband.

As I spoke with Jayme, she had a tone of tranquility and was proficient when discussing the passions of helping others in her daily and professional life.

As one of the leaders of the Oak Grove city council, Jayme brings order, control, and solutions to the needs of the civilians of Oak Grove. She brings this order to her community through the most efficient decisions made as possible by her professional and most accurate opinions.

Stacey Sutton, being on the other side of the spectrum of what a keeper of democracy is seen as, is a restaurant owner, a farm beholder, and fixes and rents rental houses around her county.

While knowing Stacey for many years, she has always had a passion for helping the people in need in her county, greeting everyone who walks into her restaurant with a warm smile.

When conversing with Stacey, she made everything short and sweet. She began the interview with a professional approach, but brought honesty and raw passion with her words.

When asked why both women were in the position of their communities they are in today, Jayme responded saying, “I would just say that I’m just a citizen that wants what’s best for my community...I want to see good things go into our town. It’s very small, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great. And as a person and as an alderman that’s what I’m trying to do in order to help better our community”. While Stacey took the route of helping guide people to the best state they can be in by saying, “I feel like we’ve helped a lot of people out when they didn’t have what they needed... we send them in the proper direction or get a hold of people that want to further themselves in life.”

When asked about a moral they live by, Stacey, being religious, spoke of God's purpose in her life and Jayme, being spiritual, mentioned the Golden Rule as her guide. “I believe,” said Stacy, “that I’m put here on this earth … because God has put me here.” To her, she is called to help others because she was created to do just that. And for Jayme, as a keeper of peace, she says, “… I always try to … treat others the way I would like to be treated … in life and in business.”

Each woman saw one main quality that made her a keeper of democracy: For Stacy, it’s honesty and for Jayme, it’s integrity.

Stacey acquires the quality of honesty, making her a keeper of democracy as a citizen in her small county. She said, “As long as you're honest and you put forth the effort and the work and do what you can, then I believe that’s all you need.” Jayme, possessing the quality of integrity, making her a keeper of democracy in a professional position said, “I think you have to be a person of integrity. I think you have to be true to your word and it’s important in our town to not overlook the small issues because every issue is important to everyone.”

When conversing with both keepers of democracy I realized one idea they had in common was the idea of “We” rather than one. They brought a new perspective to what a democracy means: That working together as a community of people is better than working alone. Although these women hold different leadership positions in their communities, they are both equally impactful as keepers of democracy.

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Civic Journalism Camp- NWP at U of A 2022 Civic Journalism Camp

In partnership with National Writing Project and the MacArthur Foundation

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