Also published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/soul-community-scot-faulkner
What gives a community its soul?
A community’s sense of self, and its ability to steward that core identity for future generations, often lies in the hands of that rare citizen who devotes their life to the betterment of all.
One such person was Elizabeth “Budge” Blake. She passed, age 91, on Friday, January 9, 2015, after a long battle with cancer.
Budge was a good friend and political “comrade in arms”. More importantly, Budge embodied the moral core, leadership, intellectual vitality, and devotion to the community that sustains America’s civic culture.
Whenever you attend a local public meeting you rarely find a full house. Usually it is a sea of empty chairs. If you are lucky, your community will have a Budge Blake in attendance.
Budge would always be the one who attended even the most obscure public meeting. She was also the one who took notes to share with others. Her critical role was to act as a one person oversight committee – holding public officials and public processes accountable to the law and the citizenry.
Budge served both from the audience and in public positions, including as the Town Attorney, representing Bolivar in legal matters before the District Court as well as the West Virginia State Supreme Court, and as the town’s representative on Jefferson County panels.
Most people are content that their contributions to the future are the children they raise. Budge not only raised a son and a daughter, she raised a generation of community activists.
For over two decades, Budge recruited, trained, mentored, and promoted her neighbors to positions in local Government. She helped establish the first Bolivar Planning Commission, filled it with like-minded citizens, and served as its President. Many of Budge’s protégés went onto to serve as a majority of the Town Council and its governing panels. This meticulous and strategic approach to fundamentally changing the government of a small town served more than 1,100 Bolivar residents. Bolivar is a vital twin town to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia with a pivotal role in preserving the historic and scenic resources of one of the truly unique places in America.
Budge’s battles were to preserve history and the integrity of public processes. She was well prepared to meet these challenges. She graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1946, received her Juris Doctorate degree from the Ohio School of Law at Capitol University and the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1969. Budge would be the one who found the key phrase or act that laid the ground work for challenge and standing. Many scenic and historic acres remain intact because of Budge staying up all night diligently reviewing transcripts and documents.
America has survived for many generations and will survive for many more because Budge Blake, and people like her, wake up each day committed to helping our nation live up to its democratic ideals.