By Harry Welty
Fifty years ago Mary Cameron was kidnapped from her
Mother and her Mississippi home by her Father and brought to Duluth, Minnesota. Back then
Mary and her brothers and sisters grew up in this strangely white town before a more color tolerant society took hold. Soft and vulnerable on the inside, tough on the outside, Mary responded to racial sleights with her fists. Last night Mary Cameron was elected Chairman of the Duluth School Board.
As a result of behind-the-scenes maneuvers Mary’s selection was preordained. Laura Condon was not happy about this choice and took the opportunity to nominate a different candidate. Laura’s eulogy for her own nominee was really a veiled rebuke of Cameron who, Laura implied, would not work with the Superintendent, or be nice to the public.
It was ironic that Condon would suggest that Mary couldn’t work with the Superintendent. Six years ago Mary joined Laura in voting for Almanza, and not with her usual allies, thus guaranteeing Julio’s hiring.
However impolitic the rebuke it was not completely without foundation. Mary has a temper. As one of her admirers, however, I would hasten to note that I’ve never seen Mary’s temper flare unless she was addressed with contempt, accusation, or insinuation. Mary is not a good role-model for the kind of “Minnesota Nice” which simply veils hostility.
I introduced myself to Mary after I was told we might be running against each other for the Board. I was so impressed with Mary that I worked on her campaign as well as my own even though she was a Democrat and I was a Republican.
That’s when I discovered that Mary was graced with a
rare quality for a politician - loyalty. I ran afoul of
Mary has always voted her own conscience even when it offended her traditional supporters. When she filed for reelection four years ago the President of AFSCME, Alan Netland, dropped by her office. He told her that “everyone” was “disappointed” with her.
Her offense was to have voted to give a charter school a
chance to operate in
Mary has good reason to have a chip on her shoulder. She grew up in a lily-white town with deep prejudices. Many of her classmates felt free to point out that she was different. As recently as last year some kids drove by and shouted the infamous “n” word at her.
Not all of her siblings survived the ordeal of growing
The Mary I know is best reflected by a former neighbor who fondly recalled how Mary’s two boys always shoveled the snow off her sidewalk. I’ve always felt that this was a better measure of Mary’s temperament.
Last night an African-American School Board Chairman and
an Hispanic-American Superintendent were at center stage. Both of these people
have gone through some pretty rough patches to get where they are. Almanza
was enrolled in a tough public school in
Welty is a small
time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com