Sheila Gilbert is a longtime Calhoun County resident. The former elementary school teacher has been interested in politics since childhood, upon realizing that national politics filter down to the local level. She is chairwoman of the Calhoun County Democratic Party.
What led to your interest in politics and government?
Growing up on a farm in West Texas, I realized that the political structure determined a lot of what happened to our livelihood.
Have you ever identified with another political party?
No, I never have. I like what the Democratic party stands for. I like its diversity. I like that we are open to all kinds of discussions.
What caused you to register as a Democrat?
I identified with other Democrats that I knew. I thought they were smart people. I identified with Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR — old-time, strong politicians. I could not see myself registering as anything other than a Democrat.
Have you held or would you consider holding a political office?
I am very happy in my role right now. I enjoy working in the process. I love campaigning, but I have never held a major elected political office. I do not think I would be very good because I would speak my mind (laughter).
Who is your favorite politician?
Eleanor Roosevelt is my absolute hero; I adore her. I like Lillian Carter; she was not an elected official, but I thought she was absolutely phenomenal. I also like Sam Rayburn of Texas.
What would you say are the key differences between the Democratic party and the Republican party?
Democrats seem to have an awareness of the needs of others. We are concerned about healthcare and looking for fairness, equality, and inclusion. I think there are very smart people on the Democratic side and on the Republican side, but it seems like the Democrats are more accepting and open.
Describe your involvement with the Calhoun County Democratic Party.
I took the chairwoman position because I had a sense that somebody needed to do something.
We offer programs and training for those who want to get into the political structure. We work with College Democrats organizations. We deal with a number of topics. We alternate locations among Oxford, Anniston and Jacksonville, so more people can attend.
What other activities does the party organize?
We recently had a major program to motivate those considering running for office, called Democrats for Action. It was an information session for South Forward. At our meeting about expanding Medicaid, we had a cross-section of people, including some I recognized as being active in other political parties.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Gardening, working in our commercial blueberry patch, doing benefit auctions and spending time with my grandkids. My husband and I have just gotten into beekeeping as well.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Alabama is becoming a one-party state. That is not good for the health and welfare of a thriving state.
I doubt that there is any person involved in the work of the state that does not love the state of Alabama; it is a wonderful place to be.
The Democrats are trying to save the two-party state system. We want new Democratic candidates to run for office to get some fairness back into the legislature.
Faith Dorn is a freelance writer in Anniston. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.