My unit, Lynchburg, held a mass meeting on May 14 to nominate three Republican candidates for the three at-large city council seats that will be filled in the November election. We have our first real chance in a generation to put a majority of conservatives in control of our city government.
I was Chair of the Planning Committee because, well…, “You did such a great job with the March mass meeting, we’ll let you do it again.” I wasn’t really appointed to plan the March meeting (to select a new chair, new local committee, and convention delegates), but every time someone asked our outgoing chair a question about it, he would say, “Ask Doc.” Funny how those things happen.
I had talked with the Events people at Liberty University and asked them to “pencil us in” for their off-campus conference center on May 14 the date we were proposing for our city council nomination meeting. After the committee approved the date at a unit meeting, I called to let Events know we definitely wanted that date. The contract would go to the chair, so I thought no more about it.
We had a lot going on in the ensuing few weeks, so we were distracted. On the afternoon before the mass meeting, I picked up some supplies, and since I was basically in the same parking lot as the conference center, I decided to stop by and see whether there was a separate room that we could use for counting ballots.
Imagine my surprise when I walked in and discovered that we were not on their calendar, and they had a wedding reception booked in the room we had planned to use. Apparently, they had no record of me firming up the date, and instead of calling me before scheduling something else in the space, they just went ahead and did it.
My first call was to the Events coordinator (a fine person whom I have known and worked with for years) and told her that we HAD to have a room the next morning. She moved us into a classroom on the main university campus that seated almost twice as many people as the off-campus conference center. This resolved my concern that with seven candidates running for the three spots, we might have too many attendees for the original room.
I had been keeping our Chair informed about the situation, and as soon as we had a new location, she sent an email to every person on any of our mailing lists and informed the candidates so they could contact their supporters with the change.
One of the people who received an email was one of the university’s lawyers. He quickly informed us that no political meetings were allowed on Liberty’s main campus so we could NOT use the classroom.
Our Chair called several very high up people at the university whom she knows to work on a solution from that end, and I worked with Events to try to find another place to meet. Finally, about 8:30 the night before the mass meeting, we were offered a vacant store space at one of the University’s off campus properties. But I spent about two hours Friday night not knowing where I would put 300 people the next morning. My prayer life improved that night.
One of our members, who owns a rental company, met me at the site at 10:30 Friday night with 300 chairs and some tables. People were there at 7:00 a.m. to make sure the place was clean and to start setting up. And we were ready to open registration on time.
We had to send out new information about the new change of venue, which understandably upset some of the candidates, but it was better than meeting in the parking lot on a rainy and windy day. We went so far as to put people at the other two locations to direct anyone who didn’t get the message to the eventual location.
The storefront was actually a better set-up than we would have had at the conference center (which would have been packed out). It was rather stressful getting to that point, but we ended up having a very smooth mass meeting.
I have a great deal of appreciation for the several people who helped us pull off the last-minute changes and for the well over 200 people who came out despite the confusion.
Steve “Doc” Troxel, Ph.D.