New Rowan Democratic Party leader wants to ‘see some changes made’
By Steve Huffman
Genoal Russell was elected chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party one week and asked to introduce Bill Clinton to the people of Salisbury the next.
Talk about going places in a hurry …
Russell was contacted about 10 p.m. this past Thursday and asked to introduce the former president when he visited Salisbury the following morning.
“I didn’t have too long to be nervous,” Russell said.
She needn’t have worried.
Russell said Clinton was gracious to her when they were introduced just moments prior to the former president’s scheduled speech outside Historic Salisbury Foundation’s depot. Clinton took command when he realized she was suffering a case of the jitters.
“When he found out I was nervous, he took my hand and led me to the podium,” Russell said. “He treated me like a Southern gentleman does.”
If Russell’s nerves were bothering her, it didn’t show. Her opening remarks moved the former president who quipped: “That was such a good introduction, if I had any sense, I wouldn’t say anything.”
Clinton spoke for 50 minutes and Russell said she enjoyed every minute of it.
“It was the experience of a lifetime to introduce a president,” she said.
But Russell also stressed that the local Democratic Party isn’t endorsing Clinton’s wife, Hillary, for the Democratic nomination for president.
At least not yet.
The local Democrats are waiting, Russell said, to see who wins the party’s nomination at this summer’s national convention.
“If (Barack) Obama comes through, I’ll introduce him with the same shaky voice,” Russell said, laughing as she spoke.
Russell, 74, is a native of Albemarle who has been married to her husband, Dillon, for 58 years. The couple have three grown children.
The Russells live in the Anchor Downs subdivision near High Rock Lake and have been residents of the community for 32 years. “We were living here when the roads weren’t even paved,” Russell said.
She graduated from Pfeiffer University with a double major in accounting and business administration and a minor in religion. Russell retired as an accountant for Cannon Mills and also ran a ceramic shop in Spencer for about 20 years.
She said she only became a Democrat about 10 years ago. She changed political leanings, Russell said, “because I wanted to see some changes made.
“I can only make a tiny difference,” she said, “but if every person made a tiny difference, maybe we’d get out of the war we’re in and see improvements in the economy, jobs and health care.”
Russell said she served as first vice chairman of the Rowan County Democratic Party until the death of party Chairman Neal Smith earlier this year. She was elected party chairman two weeks ago, the week prior to Clinton’s visit.
Russell said she’d been filling in as chairman since Smith’s health took a turn for the worse last fall and said Smith was an asset to the party.
“Oh, he was so good to us,” Russell said.
She said the local party members are working to register more Democrats in a county that has traditionally voted strongly Republican ó or red, in the blue vs. red parlance of today’s politics.
“We’re trying to turn it blue,” Russell said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.