Three months and 30 miles equals a win

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Campaign season was good for Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland’s health.

At least in one regard that is — weight.

The veteran mayor lost between seven and eight pounds in December, January and February, he estimated.

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He walked over 30 miles, averaging four or five a day.

Copeland knows the stats because a member of his campaign team who walked every step along side him carried a pedometer on her waist.

The small device — which can attach to your belt or waistband — measures the steps taken and converts them into miles.

For Copeland, this election season was the hardest since his first in 1992. He’s become accustomed to running unopposed, and not walking the streets, since that first mayoral race.

But Bill Murray spring boarded the Copeland walk-a-thon this year when he threw his hat in the mayoral ring.

“You have to get back in touch with the people to a certain extent,” Copeland said.

He and his walking partners — his wife and a family friend — visited over 2,000 houses. They always walked the same street together, but Copeland would walk on one side, his wife and her friend on the other. Then, if someone on his wife’s side had a question for Copeland, he was close enough to come across and answer it.

Door-to-door campaigning has its benefits, Copeland said. Besides the weight-loss, he was able to address the voters on a personal level. And walking keeps problems from festering.

“You may have someone on Plum Street that has a problem, but that doesn’t let anyone know about that problem,” Copeland said.

But knocking on his door gives him a chance to air the grievance, get an answer, and hopefully move on.

That’s the beauty of small-town politics. To win, you must talk to the people and convince them you are the best candidate.

Copeland’s election is over. He won by more than 60 percent of the vote. He’ll serve another four years before the next walk-a-thon becomes necessary.

But the work is still ongoing all around Vidalia.

In Ferriday, Mayor Gene Allen and challenger Glen McGlothin will be in a March 8 run-off. McGlothin made a pledge on the night of the primary that he would walk every block in order to win.

We’ll wait until March to see how many pounds he drops.

And in Natchez, it’s a bit early for Mayor Phillip West and challenger Jake Middleton to be pounding the pavement, but their time is coming.

Election season is what politics is all about. Candidates find a way to get their message out, and voters become more involved in local government than any other time of the year.

In fact, it’s a shame our elected leaders don’t keep up their walks after the election.

The public would stay informed and the pounds would stay off.

As for Copeland, the seven or eight pounds will be back soon, he said. Because, being mayor means attending banquets, meetings and meet and greets where there is always food.

The spread in front of him Tuesday at the Louisiana Energy and Power Authority meeting in Washington, D.C., was simply too great to resist, he said.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or