These days it is easy to be suspicious and a little cynical. Such was my attitude when I decided to attend the community meeting organized by our new regional editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Record (SVR), Corey Morris.
Corey became editor in September, and I soon noticed alarming changes in the SVR. For the last two years there had been a vibrant exchange of ideas in the “letters to the editor” (LTTE) section. Conservative and progressive voices were represented. Each week, I looked forward to reading and learning from my community. But in October, the number of words allowed for a letter was dropped to 200, and I noticed no letters were published after late November. Opinion articles seemed to represent a conservative viewpoint.
What a wonderful surprise to speak with Corey and find out how wrong I was. What I found was a journalist honestly listening to the community, and sincerely desiring to make the SVR better at serving and reflecting the Snoqualmie Valley. Corey wants locals to contact the SVR with story ideas, and has offered to meet monthly with the community.
I complained to Corey about how hard it is to say anything in 200 words and suggested 250 to 350 words for letters. I happily report the number of words allowed are now 300. Now, it is the responsibility of the community to submit letters.
I also complained that the editorial page seemed dominated by conservative voices, while the valley is a purple area that just helped elect Democrats Lisa Callan, Bill Ramos and Kim Schrier to office. I suggested having a community column so local voices could be heard. I was shocked when Corey said, “You can write, would you do a monthly column?”
I feel insecure and humbled by this. Can I do it? To answer that question, I must try. It is my hope that my contributions will stimulate others to write. We can all learn from each other. I look forward to hearing from the many wonderful people who live in the valley.
Corey suggested I introduce myself in this new column. Many of you have read my letters and know I am concerned about our historical moment, but you do not know much about me personally.
I was raised in Oakland, Calif., by cloth-coat Republicans, with deep Christian faith and strict morals. Thinking I could make a contribution to society by teaching history, I studied at San Jose State University. During my college years, the Vietnam War raged. I talked to people about Vietnamese history, but facts didn’t change many minds. I changed my major to psychology, and have had an interest in the intersection of personality, history and politics ever since.
In 1976 I moved to Seattle to join my life partner, and looked for work with children. Being hired by Echo Glen Children’s Center was the break I needed to both start a career and to get out of the city. I love the Valley and wanted a country life closer to nature. In 1979, my wife and I bought a little house in Snoqualmie and started gardening. Today, we eat out of that garden daily. Our son attended local schools and now owns a local business.
At Echo Glen, I worked with incarcerated juvenile offenders. I helped develop the Exodus Program, which was the first intensive, inpatient, substance abuse program in the nation for incarcerated juveniles. “Exodus” became a national model. I developed skills in treating substance abuse and physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Leaving the Exodus Program in 1992, I became a misdemeanor probation officer. Substance abuse continued to be an important element in my work, as a significant part of my caseload was domestic violence and DUI offenders. Retiring in 2011, I took part time work with Bellevue Youth Court, a diversion program for first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders. Last spring, I began working with the Bellevue School District’s Truancy Board.
Throughout my career, I have served my community and tried to make it safer. Hopefully, my writing for the SVR will stimulate discussion, understanding and, in some small way, help heal our divided America.
Roger Ledbetter is a politically-active resident of the Valley. He and his family have lived in Snoqualmie since 1979. Contact Roger Ledbetter through the editor by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.