Leadership is About More Than Position and Power

It is my belief that the single, overriding issue for any person seeking election to the North Carolina General Assembly in 2020 is expressed best in a question: What type of leadership shall we have for North Carolina?

This is our state’s top issue because how we lead determines how well our General Assembly does in addressing the many challenges and opportunities before it.

There are essentially two types of leaders -- those that demand respect and loyalty, and those that command respect and loyalty. The first type may be able to demand respect because of their institutional position -- for instance, the House Speaker. Or, perhaps because they have the numbers to bully the minority, as we witnessed on Sept. 11, 2019 (more about that in a bit). This is the kind of leadership being offered by the Republican Party. Yes, they have people who have served in the military and other critical leadership positions; others have taken courses on leadership. Leadership, however, is about more than position and power. With it comes moral responsibility.

So, the question remains: What type of leadership has the Republican-controlled General Assembly provided North Carolina? It is the answer to that question that lets us know if they are truly leaders, or merely enjoy institutional control and an unbound thirst for power.

This is but a tiny portion of their record over the last several years: Denying people the right to vote; passing budgets on the backs of the poor; allowing -- no, causing -- people to die because they refuse to expand Medicaid; privatizing public education and gutting classroom spending.

That's the Republican Party. There is much that has been done under their leadership. Harming people, however, is not leadership, and it is certainly not leadership consistent with North Carolina neighborly values. It is noteworthy that I was once quite active in the Republican Party. I was mistaken. I have matured.

Damage Done

Only 17 percent of Americans trust government, according to the Pew Research Center. This is down from the highest level of nearly 80 percent in the early 1960s. It’s reasonable to believe that applies to the North Carolina General Assembly, especially after the shenanigans the GOP pulled to hold an un-democratic vote on September 11, 2019 to override Governor Cooper’s veto of the state budget.

That vote was held after the GOP leadership told Democrats no vote would occur on the morning of solemn remembrance for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Yet, they held the vote. You should be outraged, just as Democratic Rep. Deb Butler of Wilmington was as she called out the Republicans for their skullduggery.

The Solution

So, as I’ve said repeatedly, it’s time for a change. It is fair to ask, then: What type of leadership do I envision and hope to provide for North Carolina?

For starters, I will -- as I have my entire professional life -- seek to command respect, not demand it. I’ve held numerous positions of influence that lacked an institutional title that required that people listen to me. So, to get cooperation, I had to conduct myself in such a way as to earn -- or command -- their respect. 

That experience will transfer ideally to a legislative body where cooperation and mutual respect is essential. I’ve outlined a few of those experiences below, though I don’t think those are nearly as important as this -- that you understand that I seek a leadership position because I believe North Carolina can and must do better at showing preferential concern for the poor and vulnerable.

This is how I was raised. That power is to be used to serve others; that is critical, as we need people who understand that a leader is a servant, not a master. That, I hope, is more important to you than my credentials. Yet, so that you know I have good reason to believe that I would make a capable North Carolina State Senator, below is a partial list of my professional and vocational activities. You will note it is varied and extensive. I consider this a bonus, as the expertise in multiple fields will help inform my decision-making as a state senator. 

My Education

  • Post-graduate Certificate, Community Preparedness and Disaster Management, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, January, 2009
  • B.A. in English and history, Glenville State College, 1984
  • Also certified as an EMT and paramedic in 1970s


  • Co-owner of the Lenoir Voice
  • Owner of the Appalachian Chronicle
  • Reporter, Lenoir (N.C.) News-Topic
  • Reporter and editor, the Hickory Daily Record
  • Freelance writer and columnist, The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, The Roanoke Times, The Charlotte Observer, the Raleigh News & Observer, Now & Then magazine, Mountain Aire magazine, Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Morgantown Post (W.Va.), the Morganton News-Herald (N.C.), the Observer-News-Enterprise (N.C.), The Summit (Flagstaff, Ariz.), and others. Also, on-air essayist for three radio stations in North Carolina, including WNCW, an NPR affiliate in Spindale, N.C. and for West Virginia Public Radio’s program, “Inside Appalachia.”
  • Web/print editor, the Christian Emergency Network, Anthem, Ariz.
  • Book, The Hillbilly Highway (1997), a tribute to the people of Appalachia through a collection of oral histories;
  • Book, Seven Days in Haiti (2007), a collection of daily dispatches written while covering Christian missionaries in Port-au-Prince, Haiti;
  • Book, Exceptional Care a Century Strong: A Mission of Mercy and Healing – The history of Frye Regional Medical Center (2010), a full-color coffee-table history of Catawba County, N.C. and the community hospital it founded;
  • Book, The Dangerous Delusion of American Exceptionalism (2011), an examination of the erosion of the values, systems and institutions essential for national survival; and, the threat presented by our unwillingness to acknowledge our failures and opportunities for improvement.


  • Managing Director, Education and Communications, Wall Watchers, Matthews, N.C. (Nonprofit national donor advocacy organization);
  • Language Arts teacher, South Caldwell High School and Founder & Chair of the school’s Human Relations Council;
  • Instructor, Catawba Valley Community College, reading and writing;
  • Instructor, Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute, journalism


  • Safety Officer/Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Frye Regional Medical Center, Hickory, NC;
  • Safety Officer / Emergency Management Coordinator, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Weston, WV

Politics & Community Service

  • Member, Caldwell County Board of Education;
  • Campaign Manager/Strategist for Art Sherwood, Democratic candidate for NC Senate;
  • Republican candidate, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2003 (dropped out to fulfill obligations as Medical Power of Attorney for friend)
  • Republican nominee, North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2000
  • Chairman, Caldwell County Human Relations Council
  • Member, North Carolina School Boards Association Taxing Authority Committee
  • Developed and organized the “Preserving Sacred Appalachia” conference held in Charleston, W.Va. in 2015.
  • Fellow, North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership, 1999
  • Fellow, Leadership Caldwell, 1999
  • Common Cause North Carolina – Plott Hound Courage Award for work in support of campaign finance reform – education and outreach to Republican members of the North Carolina General Assembly, 2002
  • Shining Light – Charlotte Christian News, 2003
  • Outreach for North Carolina-based Faith in America, a national organization existing to repudiate religious-based bigotry against those in the LGBTQ+ community; also, outreach activities for EqualityNC.
  • Recreational League baseball and basketball coach, 1992 – 2000

I pledge to lead not only with my head, but also my heart. Because I clearly believe that the Democratic Party is a better deal for the people of North Carolina, I run proudly as a Democrat, yet pledge to serve every citizen -- as was once the norm -- regardless of political affiliation. So, I would appreciate your vote! And, if you can help with a financial contribution, you can do so here.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2019. Though copyrighted material, it may be shared/reprinted without prior permission so long as no changes are made.

Contact Us

Have a question about this issue that this page doesn't answer? Contact the campaign!