It was an afternoon meeting of Augusta County’s Board of Zoning Appeals. Despite the time of day and dry discussions of kennel placements, set-backs and the appropriateness of beauty shops in residentially zoned properties, it was a full house.
The auxiliary room of the county’s boardroom had to be opened to accommodate a crowd of perhaps 200. It was 2018 and the main event was Dominion’s request to use farm land for a contractor’s yard in support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The BZA and staff were there, Dominion was there, and nearly all of the public in attendance were fervently there. There was overwhelming opposition to the pipeline, the contractor’s yard, and Dominion itself.
Shortly into the meeting the chairman asked that any in support of the application to come forward. Few would be expected to speak-up for the locally despised energy conglomerate. Only brave souls would volunteer to walk the gauntlet leading to the podium.
And yet up strode a woman exhibiting all the confidence of guy in a bar who had just told his buddy, “Hold my coat,” while preparing to make short work of a fellow patron. She was a tall lady, self-possessed and plain spoken.
She made the case for Dominion’s request based on existing protections for water, traffic and neighbors afforded by both the government and the community. It was well-researched, understanding of the issues and the particular concerns of the local folks.
It was analytical almost to the end but then came a fast ball, high and tight. “And now I will be going home for a long, leisurely, shower with inexpensive hot water courtesy of natural gas.”
That was my introduction to Anne Seaton. Fearless, smart, and ready to give as good as she got. The crowd was thunderstruck, but she had made her point. A complex issue was brought down to a simple equation: pipelines equal better living.
My mind was not changed but I was impressed. Effective politics requires both prose and poetry, the rational and the rousing. Of all the speakers I heard on the pipeline over several years, it was Mrs. Seaton’s talk that I remember most.
Since the senseless death of this mother of four, I have not been able to focus on the general insignificance of government when contrasted to the enormity of family. Likely, I am not alone in considering the “what ifs.” What if this grandmother-in-waiting had lingered another minute before leaving her last appointment or departed a minute earlier?
How can so little be determinative in whether a life so vital, so meaningful, continues? How can the drunken actions of a single weakling destroy someone so strong?
There can be no satisfactory answers, just unending questions. And consideration of those left behind to mourn her passing.
Some months ago Mrs. Seaton’s Facebook page included Apostle Paul’s encouragement to Timothy (II Timothy 4:1-5) to preach the word with urgency. That a judgement was coming and untruths needed to be countered.
This seemed to me to be precisely what the missionary, Anne Seaton, had sought to do in both faith and politics.
But today the succeeding verses (II Timothy 4:6-8) seem the relevant passages in considering; Mrs. Seaton’s passing and the new life that awaited her.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”
But still we mourn.
Tracy Pyles, a former chairman and member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors who lives in Augusta County, is a columnist for The News Virginian. His column is published Saturdays.