My name is Trevor Mark Gates. I was born in Sylva at the (Harris Regional) hospital. My family has lived in Jackson County for as long as I know. I graduated from Southwestern Community College here in Sylva. Look me up on Google, and you’ll see that I’ve been written up in the pages of the Herald a bunch of times. I love living here. Sylva’s given me a lot.
I am also a proud member of Down Home NC. I joined the organization because I want to give back to the place that raised me. Our local Down Home chapter is full of people who love Jackson County, and want to see all of us living here thriving.
During the elections, Down Home NC and (Sylva town board) candidate Carrie McBane were attacked in the pages of this paper. In an extremely close election (decided by a coin flip) it’s understandable that emotions ran high. But the insinuation that Down Home NC and its local members like me are “outsiders” is ludicrous.
As y’all know, only Sylva residents get to vote in town council races. Some 108 of us locals cast our votes for Carrie McBane. We live here. This is our home. None of us voted for McBane because some outsider told us what to do or how to think. Local people voted for her because we trust her to represent us. A lot of that has to do with the work she does with Down Home NC.
No one has worked harder for poor and working people in Jackson County than Carrie McBane. After struggling for years to afford health care while working as a waitress in downtown Sylva, McBane met Down Home NC last year and leapt into action to serve her community. She has been tirelessly leading the fight to expand Medicaid, not only in Jackson County, where 2,488 of us don’t have access to care, but across North Carolina. That’s the kind of person I want to represent me on the Sylva town council.
And Carrie McBane isn’t the only local person who has found new power and leadership through our local Jackson County Down Home NC chapter. Down Home truly walks the walk when it comes to putting power and agency into the hands of members. This year alone, Down Home has knocked on thousands of doors asking Jackson County residents about the problems we face, distributed thousands of Narcan kits to save Jackson County lives, and fought to expand Medicaid for working people like me.
Down Home North Carolina has given local people like me a stronger voice in the decisions that impact our lives. It’s about the opposite of having outsiders tell us what to do. Our members are poor and working people who are usually left out of the conversation, but now we have a chance to come together and have a say. Our Jackson County branch of Down Home NC holds open meetings every month. All members of the public are welcome to join. We would love to have you come meet our members and learn more about our work.
Even though we fell short, I encourage my fellow Sylva residents to celebrate our work to elect Carrie McBane. She is a wonderful leader, and was a coin-flip away of becoming the first woman of color to be elected to our town council. I am confident that McBane and other Down Home members will continue our work, and will run for office again. I invite my neighbors to join me at Down Home NC as we continue our work to build power for poor and working people, and to make Sylva a great place for all of us to live.
Trevor Gates lives in Sylva.