Roy Exum: More Than A Hairdresser

Friday, May 30, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I am among a number of people who wish that Rhonda Thurman would not have declared herself as a write-in candidate in the August 7th vote for the Hamilton County Commission. I believe that Randy Fairbanks earned the seat the right way – through the Republican primary – with a surprising win over Fred Skillern and, since there is no Democratic challenger, the District 1 seat is rightfully his. He deserves it.

But I was also hurt when I read about Rhonda’s anguish in a forum letter after being ridiculed as a “hairdresser,” this in a bobbled attempt at humor as she was castigated by several columnists after deciding to pick up the torch for her pal Freddie Rees. Rhonda has been a wonderful public servant for three terms on the school board and, by state law, she has every right to be a write-in candidate.

The trouble with a write-in candidate is that the public knows little-to-nothing about a candidate who doesn’t endure the normal election process. Freddie Rees, who lost to Randy by a scant 51 votes, will go down as one of the best commissioners who has ever served Hamilton County. Some might not have admired his tact but results are what matter. From this view, all nine of Hamilton County’s districts were each blessed by Skillern’s honesty, his integrity and his forthright effort to do what was best.

I’ve also known the Fairbanks family for years and I believe Randy will be an asset to the county panel. The voters in District 1 have determined he should get a chance. Those who allege RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) or Democrats posing as Republicans gerrymandered the results overlook the fact only a shamefully nine percent of Hamilton County’s voters even bothered going to the polls. Please.

In fairness, Rhonda and I have disagreed in the past but, in retrospect, she was valiantly trying to keep the embattled school board on an even keel. Since the polished Mike Evatt became chairman and superintendent Rick Smith has striven for excellence, you barely hear a peep from a cohesive school board except for the undeniable fact we badly need more and upgraded facilities.

No, Rhonda Thurman is far more than an ordinary hairdresser, but let’s look at that. I have had the luxury that just two women have “done my hair” for the last 45 years. Patti Edwards cut my hair for 20 years before she moved to South Carolina and then Denise Sahalney has “shaped” me for the past 25. Both are among my most treasured friends and to call either a hairdresser is laughable. They know me as well as anyone alive and still accept me for what I am. I love them unashamedly in return.

It is also impossible to view Rhonda as a hairdresser. She’s had to handle some family health issues and work around her dogged determination to serve the School Board in the time-consuming way she has done but she is as admired as any woman I know. Her close alliance with Freddie Rees is natural and wonderful as they have locked elbows to serve their District 1 constituency. My goodness, I’d expect nothing less.

I cringe when stupid people call service-oriented jobs by lesser terms. I heard a guy talking about his “yardman” not long ago when, truth be told, the guy could never use a flower trowel, a hedge-trimmer or a weed-eater with the precision his “yardman” does to turn an unruly mural of nature into a pristine portrait on any given afternoon.

What’s that bumper sticker? “Don’t talk badly about a farmer with a mouth full of food.” I learned long ago that nurses, school teachers, police and firefighters are the most noble who walk among us. My mother’s closest friends, as she lives this last year in her 80s, are the women who come to be with her during the day. House-keepers, give me a break. They are family-treasured saints.

My fondest memories include the black folks who loved us as children, particularly Mr. Elmer Pettyjohn who was such a father figure to me for the first 40 years of my life. In his last years he laughingly called me “Boss Man” but by then he owned me lock, stock and barrel. He was a simple man with only a slight education but was one of the top five most wonderful men I have ever known and taught me more than any teacher I can name.

While I wish Rhonda would wait and run for County Commissioner the proper way, I don’t begrudge her if she wants to try. Our “hairdresser” proved to all of us long ago she is indeed a character and I love her for it. I also appreciate what she has done in the last 12 years on the school board and, my goodness, what a fallacy it would be to judge Freddie Rees’s incomparable tenure on the fact he was beaten in the end by 51 votes. He is a legend and rightfully so.

Finally, there is a truism every writer will one day learn – when you belittle a person, you actually slander yourself. Make your point with dignity and respect and it will go a lot further than if accompanied by a photo that makes it look like you need to see a skilled hairdresser. A good one is indeed an artist, using shears in much the same way we wordsmiths use the alphabet.

Anyone who doubts it should try to cut their own hair.

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