By Kevin Slimp
Elections have always been big deals in small towns and Lennox Valley is no exception. Winning an elected office is one of the few ways to be a big fish in a community like “The Valley.” About your only other options are serving on a church board or opening a law office.
1998 was an especially contentious election, as I remember. You see, it’s almost impossible to get re-elected in a small town, unless no one else wants to hold your office. It’s just too easy to make enemies when you personally know most of your constituency. A lack of willing candidates is rarely the case, because there’s always somebody who wants to be a bigger fish. Raymond Cooper was cast perfectly for the Moby Dick role.
Well, almost perfectly. It was well known that to win an election in Lennox Valley, there was a huge advantage in being a member of First Baptist Church. The Baptist Church was the closest thing to a political machine in our town. With close to 20 percent of the good folks of Lennox Valley on its membership roll and, just as importantly, more than 30 percent of the town’s voters, it was hard to win against someone with that many built-in allies.
Raymond, however, had a plan. A few years earlier, he had correctly predicted the upcoming boom in talk radio. He had begun listening to a nationally syndicated radio program based at a station in South Florida and quickly realized the potential of this new medium. At first, Raymond’s station was primarily an outlet for sharing his off-the-wall social and political views. But as time passed, he quickly came to see that there were additional advantages to owning the town’s only radio station.
In 1993, Talk Radio 88.3 moved to a round the clock format, primarily filled with syndicated programming from far away places. The good folks of Lennox Valley were fascinated with stories about UFOs, corrupt politicians and, sometimes, religious programming. It took a lot to fill 24 hours every day.
The most popular show on 88.3 was Renderings With Raymond, which could be heard twice each weekday: live from noon till 3 or a repeat of that dayÕs show from 8 till 11 each night.
Most folks considered Raymond a political nutcase, but nutcases tend to attract other nutcases and such was the case with Raymond. It didn’t take him too long to realize that it only required 400 nutcases to win an election in The Valley and that’s just what he intended to do.
If he was going to win the mayor’s race, beating the incumbent, “Silver Tongue” Dick Bland, and few other yet-to-be-determined opponents, Raymond needed a hot button issue to get voters excited about the next election. He found just the issue.
Beginning in February 1997, Renderings With Raymond became a hotbed of fiery conversation centered on the Federal Reserve System. It was sheer genius. Sure, mayors of small towns have no influence on the Federal Reserve System, nor did most people give it much, if any, thought. But Raymond knew he only needed 400 good folks of Lennox Valley to care.
Heated debates concerning the system could be heard daily. Raymond pressed the idea that egg prices had risen 72 percent in just four years, all due to inadequacies in the Federal Reserve System.
In February 1997, no one knew that Raymond Cooper had his eye on the mayor’s seat. But as the price of eggs continued to rise, it was only a matter of time until Raymond officially threw his hat into the race.