Interview with Tarboro, NC - Mayor Tate Mayo

Think locally. Project decentralized revolution. These aren’t marketing gimmicks, they are real reflections of the values that we hold as Libertarians. It has sometimes been a slow march forward, but we are making gains, slowly but surely. It all starts with making change where we can immediately make a difference right in our own backyard.

Today, the Tar Heel wants to introduce you to Tate Mayo. Tate won the mayor’s race for his native Tarboro, North Carolina on May 17, 2022. Prior to that, he was elected to the town council, serving the same function as his grandfather before him. While the race was non-partisan, Tate is a Libertarian.

Tar Heel: Tate, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Tell our readers about yourself. What would you like North Carolina to know about Tate Mayo?

Tate Mayo: I'm no different than anyone else in this beautiful world; I'm just a kid from somewhere. I was fortunate in growing up on my family's farm just outside of Tarboro. Today I work the same land for a living that my family has tended since before the founding of our country. My sisters and I are currently working on a project to make textile products out of the cotton from our farm at the textile mill that we've operated since 1931.

Tar Heel: And of course politics. What is it that made you want to run for office?

Mayo: I ended up in local politics because I was called. When I first ran for Tarboro's Town Council it was because I was approached to do so. Just to get the people asking me to run off of my back I went to the Edgecombe County Elections office, paid my ten-dollar filing fee and ended up winning by less than ten votes.

When our previous mayor announced that he wasn't going to seek reelection, the same thing happened but by a different group of people when they heard who else was going to put their name in the hat. Agreeing that I would be a better fit for the role than the others that decided to run, I agreed to do it.

Tar Heel: Do you feel the connection to your hometown? What about to your grandfather?

Mayo: I have always loved my hometown of Tarboro. In my youth I wanted to get as far away as possible. As I grew older I came to the realization that I could go anywhere and do anything that I was capable of achieving but I was happiest at home. In April of 2018 I quit my job in Raleigh and moved home with no real plans as to what the next step was. It has been a struggle trying to make an honest living but I wouldn't trade my life in Tarboro for anything.

My grandfather, Columbus Washington "Lum" Mayo III, was my childhood hero. He was impatient as anyone, gruff as a bear but had a heart of gold and I was lucky enough to be his little buddy. He, like all of us humans, was imperfect. His strengths far outpaced his shortcomings and more than compensated for such. I often go by my grandparent's gravesite to this day to speak what is on my mind and ask them to look out for the matters in which I worry.

Tar Heel: And you’re a farmer. What is it about that connection to the land makes people tend to be Liberty-minded?

Mayo: Farming is not easy and that is why it is gratifying. The amount of time, physical labor, technology and reliance on the Earth teaches anyone willing to learn many hard-learned lessons. Ninety-nine percent of farmers are just trying to make ends meet by honest means. The disdain for folks out to make an easy dollar out of speculation, regulators, and encroachment of land by development hits hard when it's your livelihood that is slowly being chipped away an acre at a time.

It hurts my soul to hear how little people know about where their food comes from. There are a lot of hard-working people that get by on scraps to make sure that the country can eat three meals a day at an affordable rate. Farming is also the most regulated industry in the United States. We report everything that we plant in every field to the FSA. We have to get a license to spray what we must on our crops. All the while we get criticized en masse by the media, politicians, and the general public for doing the things that we must do to put food on the plates of the same people that speak ill of us.

Tar Heel: Can you talk about some ways the state has interfered with your right and ability to farm for your family?

Mayo: Trade agreements. Bureaucratic directives. Quotas. Buyouts. Labor. Education. Energy. Delisting chemicals. Mandated ten-year trials to bring new technologies to the market. You name something that the government does and I can find a way that it adversely affects farmers. Even the so-called Farm Bill does very little for farmers.

Trade agreements and tariffs can open or close entire markets overnight. They can also undercut or cut out entirely us or farmers elsewhere in the world. Short-term gains quickly level off and leave us with long-term deficits.

Through bureaucratic directives like the EPA's Waters of the US (WOTUS) our ability to do things as simple as cleaning out a ditch can quickly turn from hopping in the backhoe to paying an engineering firm to get the go ahead to keep our fields from flooding. 

Quotas, like that given to tobacco farmers artificially prop up markets temporarily but eventually completely wipe out domestic markets when foreign competition is given incentive to catch up. 

Buyouts like that given to farmers after the collapse of the American tobacco production are a nice "get better soon" from the government. However, measures like this are just the icing on the cake of an industry killed by governmental actions.

Trying to find someone to work on the farm in the age of social mdeia [finger quotes] influencers is near impossible. Rarely will anyone find someone young that is willing to do what it takes to be a farmer aside from growing a small garden or having some backyard chickens. Our industry has resorted to importing labor through the H2A program. We are being forced to pay people from other countries to come and work our farms. Their minimum wage is twice that of the Federal minimum wage, we are required to have the county and state inspect their housing annually that we provide, and they have no taxes taken from their paychecks. It is a great form of foreign aid as we actually get something in return for what we put into it.

Education in my county is particularly lacking. If you attend a public school in Edgecombe County, aside from the Edgecombe County Early College, you will leave at 18 completely unprepared for life in industry or academia. Luckily we have had a charter school for the last 10 years that offers much promise.

Energy policy touches just about every aspect of farming. When you fill up your gas tank and prices are high it hurts. Imagine having to fill up 2,500 gallons at a time rather than the 10-30 in an average car. That is just on the surface level. Just about all of our nitrogen is produced from natural gas and relatively little of it is produced domestically. Just about all of the precursors to the chemicals we need are also imported from China. We could do all of it domestically if our country wouldn't regulate the energy and chemical companies to death. Exporting a problem doesn't make it go away.

Tar Heel: As mayor, how have you been able to push back against that overreach, and what are some changes you would like to see in Raleigh to make it easier for farmers?

Mayo: The mayoral position is largely a figurehead. As such, there is little that I can do to push back other than speaking my mind. A good example of such is sitting through a meeting with state bureaucrats discussing progress of a thirty million dollar grant to help alleviate the flooding that has happened twice in my community over the last twenty four years. 

Twenty four years after the first of the floods they have only gotten as far as to tell us where the water comes in at. There are a lot of non-engineers in our community that can say firsthand where we flood from. I told them that it is pure corruption on an institutional level that almost a quarter of a century after realizing that we have a real problem that nothing of substance has been done.

In 2011 we lost our ability to have franchise agreements with telecom companies. This has left our community with internet infrastructure that was put in in 1978, is completely unreliable and we have little say other than to pay or not pay for a service, although I would argue that it is a utility in this day and age. I have personally gone to our Attorney General, Josh Stein, about our townwide outages, lack of quality and timely repairs - I went nineteen days without service but still had to pay for it. The response was a meeting with the company in question from Mr. Stein's office that was largely overshadowed by a proclamation that he made against menthol cigarettes on the same day. Little changed after the meeting.

After hearing our Governor, Roy Cooper, speak to "bringing high-speed, reliable and affordable internet to rural communities" several times over a period of a couple of years I wrote down our problems, what we've done as a town, and an ask for help. When he came to town I asked him in person what was being done. There was no answer. Only a baffled look, a handoff of a letter and an awkward back to his state-funded transportation. If anyone says they're going to do something, hold them accountable to their claims. Our Governor is not.

Tar Heel: What was running for mayor like?

Mayo: It was a rollercoaster. Joys, sorrows and countless frustrations. I never asked for a donation and raised over six-thousand dollars.  I never asked anyone to put up a sign and over 400 were requested.  I never spoke ill of the folks running for the same spot publicly or privately, yet one candidate attacked me personally, my family, my family's business, family history, and honestly I'm surprised that she didn't go after my dog as well.

Due to redistricting and an injunction by the NC Supreme Court the election was held in May. This may be fine and dandy to most, but for a farmer in Eastern North Carolina it lands the race dead in the middle of planting season. I was only able to get out on the streets for four days, with one of those days being election day. To say that anything was easy about the campaign would be an outright lie. 

I just want my community to be left better than it was when I started. Sadly, there was a split in my community caused by unnecessary means outside of my control. Despite the personal attacks lodged at me by a former friend and calls for her to be fired by the local school board in which she is employed, I wrote a letter asking for her to not lose her job and that policy not be changed to restrict the speech of employees of the school system on account of one incident. Only one person on the school board ever acknowledged receiving the letter.

Tar Heel: How different was that from your first campaign?

Mayo: The first campaign was a cake walk compared to the second. There was no negative attacking by anyone and we all got along just fine afterwards. The second required far more logistics, cooperation, and delegation.

Tar Heel: Any advice you can share for other people thinking about running for office and oping to emulate your success?

Mayo: It is a sad fact of politics that it requires a level of narcissism to think that you can do better than the next person. The same trait that compels one to seek any office can also destroy one from within if not kept in check. Be sure that you're running to make your community a better place rather than propelling yourself into "power." If your goal is to gain "power" stay at home.

Make friends, especially with people that don't think along the same lines as you. It is easy to say "this is the way it should be" before understanding how it actually is. Hearts and minds are won one person at a time. Honest discussions with people holding vastly different views are the best way of creating understanding and creating common ground. Despite all of our differences, there is no person that common ground can't be identified.

Tar Heel: Amazing, thank you again for doing this. We are looking forward to watching the star of Tate Mayo rise. Before we go, any final message you want to give to Liberty lovers in North Carolina?

Mayo: Be your own advocate. Show up. Be heard. Be known. Do not be anonymous.

There is a great deal that happens on a local level. In my opinion the most pertinent issues that we face are dealt with first at a local level. Go to public meetings in your town, city, county, school board, etc. Meet the people making the decisions that affect your daily life. Compliment when things go well. Bring solutions to the table rather than problems. It is easy to point out a problem but figuring the problem out is where the music is made.

Whatever it is that you do, do it with love. Wherever it is that you find frustration, show grace. Wherever it is that you see slack, take on the responsibility. 

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  • Rob Yates
    published this page in County Corner 2023-06-13 01:35:39 -0400
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