Farmer-Butterfield holds ‘listen and learn’ session

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Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield recently kicked off a series of “Tabletop Listen and Learn” sessions where she grew up — in Wilson County’s Gardners township at the Bakertown Volunteer Fire Department southeast of Elm City.

During a meal, children, college students, adults and seniors listened to her explain how the legislative process works. Questions were asked about what had been accomplished for eastern North Carolina, especially Wilson.

Farmer-Butterfield said she secured support for the heart, stroke and dental centers at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine in Greenville and fought successfully to keep the Walter B. Jones Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center there.

With former Rep. Joe Tolson and former Sen. A.B. Swindell, Farmer-Butterfield said she successfully kept Bridgestone-Firestone in Wilson on two occasions.

Farmer-Butterfield said she also fought to keep the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in Wilson from closing three times since being elected in 2003.

Other accomplishments cited were working to get an inpatient unit at Wilson Medical Center to keep people in need of mental health services and their families from having to go out of town as well as helping get Greenlight high-speed internet and lower utility bills in Wilson.

Concerns and needs shared with Farmer-Butterfield were reducing utility bills, conducting research on whether solar farms popping up in the east, specifically Elm City and Conetoe, are economically sound businesses in the long run, increasing the salaries of teachers, teacher assistants and other public school employees to keep them from moving for better pay and working conditions, giving teachers the supplies and materials to do their jobs instead of having to beg, borrow or spend their personal money; seeking help for farmers whose crops were affected by the hurricane followed by a tornado and securing counseling for children and senior citizens affected emotionally by the natural disasters.

A student said bullying of students and even teachers is still taking place in local schools. Farmer-Butterfield said she supported a bill that addressed bullying and that policies and procedures should now be in place to avoid bullying in each school district.

Farmer-Butterfield said legislation to address bullying of teachers will be one of her 2019 legislative priorities if she is re-elected. In the meantime, she agreed to address the matter with school officials.

Farmer-Butterfield said the student was excited at the suggestion of a visit to her school and mock session of the General Assembly that would provide students an opportunity to discuss and debate legislation.

Other 2019 priorities discussed during the Tabletop Listen and Learn session included the formation of a citizens’ advisory board to set legislative priorities for the city of Wilson and Wilson County and the formation of a nonpartisan joint legislative caucus of eastern North Carolina legislators.