stepping up and making a difference
One of Patsy Keevers earliest childhood memories is seeing a photo
of her parents and her two older sisters smiling for the camera as they
stood in Duke Universitys gardens. She remembers wondering why
she wasnt in that picture. That sense of wondering fueled her
desire to be part of the pictureit helped her decide to attend
Duke University (which she did, graduating with a degree in education),
and its become a metaphor for her life. She has a driving passion
for being in the picture, for helping others, for being part of the
age 56, is a spirited, multi-faceted woman. A mom, grandmother, teacher,
friend, Buncombe County Commissioner, and Board member for several community
organizations, she relishes all her roles and is grateful for the learning
experiences they bring. This year, shes gearing up for a new rolePatsy
is running for Congress, the 11th Congressional District seat, a Democrat
running against incumbent Charles Taylor.
This is no small task, but Patsy is crystal clear about her goal. This
past summer I was contemplating running for Buncombe County Commission
Chair, when this just hit me out of the blue. I realized I could step
up and make a difference. Its no longer a question for me, I know
this is what Im supposed to be doing, she explained.
certainty about running for Congress stems from her many life experiences.
Her parents taught her the value of hard work, honor, and civic duty.
A native North Carolinian, she grew up in Charlotte, the youngest of
three girls. Her mom and sisters were her role models, along with Eleanor
Roosevelt and Jackie Kennedy. She remembers her mom, an educator, working
with the League of Women Voters. This civic volunteerism inspired Patsy
to get involved in the voter process early on. (Patsy is past president
of Buncombes League of Women Voters.) She also credits her mom
for instilling confidence in her. She always told me and my sisters
we could do anything, so I just grew up with that. And she not only
told us that, she expected us to do it! I also knew I was supposed to
give to others.
also fondly recalls her father, a civil lawyer, one of the most caring,
honorable men shes ever known. He taught us the meaning
of honor, filled that role, and set high standards, she said.
knowing she would go to college, she decided on Duke at a young age,
and graduated with an education degree in 1969. She met Johnny, her
late husband, during those years. This was during the Vietnam War, and
Johnny enlisted in officers school, becoming a first lieutenant,
which made Patsy the ranking officers wife. Patsy recalls her
surprise at being in that role, but she quickly adapted to the white
glove etiquette the role required. During his officers training,
Patsy used her teaching skills to teach soldiers how to read. During
the year he spent in Vietnam, Patsy supported herself, living alone
with her dog in Charlotte. I really identify with families who
have family members go off to war, and it amazes me how much support
families get today. Im glad we now appreciate our military members
and families, she said.
also always wanted to be a wife and mother, and a teacher. Happiness
to me was being with someone I loved, I never really aspired to be in
the limelight, or in politics. But I also always wanted to be involved
with things. Ive always been bossy, and I wanted to be part of
the decision-making process, and to take care of people, she stated.
the years, she has balanced her desires, raising two incredible daughters,
sharing a wonderful life with her husband, and teaching. She spent 25
years as a teacher in North Carolina private and public schools, retiring
a couple of years ago. Shes taught students from Kindergarten
through adults, but spent the majority of her career teaching seventh
and eighth grade social studies in Asheville schools, including Valley
Springs, Venable, and Inca Middle School.
realizes that teaching is closely related to politics. What I
did was teach my students, love them, and help themits the
same thing in politics. I try to help them all.
she was teaching social studies she was also a member of the Buncombe
County Board of Commissioners, and she carried her civic responsibilities
into the class room. I wanted to be a role model. I wanted students
to be positive about politicians and politics. Sometimes I would discuss
issues from the County with my students. We would have wonderful discussions,
and I valued their opinions. These discussions also helped students
learn to listen to each other.
than one year ago, Patsys husband Johnny died from prostate cancer,
an experience that profoundly effects her core. She says Johnny was
a gentle, loving man and great supporter of her career. It was his illness
that motivated her to retire from teaching, so she could spend more
time with him. As Johnnys disease progressed, I knew he
needed me 24/7, so I decided to leave the class room to be with him.
I spent eight months caring for him, and dropped everything except my
county commission meetings. It was very intense. For about six months,
I didnt know from day to day if he would live or die.
this time, I was storing up energy and I didnt really know what
this was about. Now I knowrunning for Congress is what Im
doing now. I have no regrets, and Im playing hard.
says Johnny did not know she was planning on running for Congress, because
she did not know herself. But she relates a dream she had not too long
ago. Shes standing in an empty conference room, there are streamers
and balloonsshe believes its after a campaign rally. She
sees a man walking toward her, and recognizes Johnny. Theres a
button placed over his heart. As he gets closer, she reads the button.
It says Keever for Congress. He was always a great supporter for
me, and I know hes supporting me now, she smiled through
is the guiding principle in Patsys life, and she has plenty to
give. Her greatest joy is spending time with her two daughters, her
grand daughter Riley, and the rest of her family. She also loves helping
people, including her students. She balances her public life with her
private life like a master juggler, and she credits good friends who
let her be herself. I have a great support system, and I thrive
on energy from other people.
the conclusion of our interview, Patsy grabbed her stuff and started
for the door, then stopped, emptied her hands, and hugged me. This
is what women get to do, they allow themselves to love each other,
she said. Yes.
on Women and Politics
Patsy believes its important for women to step up in the political
arena, to get involved on boards and commissions. Shes now in
her third term as a County Commissioner, and serves on the Boards of
Buncombe County Board of Health, United Way, Juvenile Crime Prevention
Council, and the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Task Force. Shes
also devoted years to the League of Women Voters, including serving
as past president of that Asheville/Buncombe organization. I
want women to know that Im just a normal person, theres
nothing really special about me, but Im accessible and open. Im
not really different from you; we all have our life experiences and
are all in this together. We get to support each other and make things
are all about teamwork, and not as much about taking credit, she
said. We just want to get the job done. Someone can have a great
idea and not follow throughwomen can make it happen. A lot of
men are too concerned about taking credit. I dont need that, I
just want to get it done.
found that it takes a thick skin to be a woman in politics, because
no matter what you do, someone will be unhappy. I just get to believe
and have confidence, to do the right thing for the right reason. I also
know the importance of networking and being a team player. Finally,
I know everyone wants to be appreciated, myself included, and I do that.
to Patsy everything boils down to politics, and politics effects every
aspect of our lives. She encourages women to get involved. You
know, we see pictures of white males in all the history books, and we
must also be in the picture. We matter. Its WAY time for us to
be there and support each other.
CandidateLets face it, another white middle class male isnt
going to get anybody excited. I can motivate on a different level. I
have the political experience, community experience, I know how families
are effected by war, and I know the impact of businesses shutting down
across our region. I know this is mine to do and I believe I will winwhich
is kind of frightening, but fabulous!
priority is a quality education for all of western North Carolinas
students, and she knows that todays students are the work force
of tomorrow. To help insure a robust economic future for our region,
she is committed to providing our children, teachers, and schools with
the resources needed to succeed.