by Art Levy
Updated 3 yearss ago
The bookstore has been a joy. I’m so much happier.
My mom was volunteering at a political campaign one day after school — I was probably in the 10th or 11th grade — and I went with her to sit and do my homework, and they actually let me make some calls at the phone bank. I became completely hooked on the concept that you could have a conversation with someone about specific policy issues and specific candidates and talk substance and convince someone to support the candidate of your choice. I became obsessed with politics and began volunteering for campaigns.
I have faith in the American people to get it right, but I think we’ve gotten off course. I certainly believe Trump and the people around Trump and the Republicans who have supported Trump are responsible for that.
Jeb Bush would have made a great president. I think he was someone who would have really helped heal the nation and pull people together, but the Republican Party was just not looking for that type of leader in 2016. People were not looking for bold ideas. They were looking for someone who could carry their anger — and Jeb is not an angry guy.
You can make mistakes. You can go in the wrong direction, but I think it’s important when you feel strongly about something to take a risk. For me, that has meant not always doing the popular thing but trying really hard to do the right thing.
I worry a lot about climate change and its impact on Florida’s coastal communities. Policymakers really need to focus on the short- and long-term effects of climate change. I don’t think it should be a political issue, and it frustrates me that it is a political issue.
My parents were both big readers. I’m sure there were times when I wanted a particular toy or something that I did not get, but I was never refused a book by my parents.
I feel really fortunate, especially in the middle of a pandemic, to be able to shelter on a farm. Our farm is about 100 acres, and I would say maybe 25 or 30 acres are used for farming chickens. We raise rare breeds, heritage breeds. It started as a hobby but has become a business as people want to grow and raise their own food and want to know where their food comes from. Most of the people buy our chickens as babies and raise them to collect the eggs. We ship a baker’s dozen of day-old chicks every Monday from the Midway Florida Post Office. If you go there, the post mistress will tell you that you can hear the sounds of baby chicks being shipped all over the country.
We do a family Zoom chat every weekend, and I highly recommend it — my brother, sister, myself and my parents. We quit talking about politics.
I love Southern Gothic literature. My favorite author is Ellen Gilchrist, who is a native Mississippian. Particularly during my formative years, I read everything she wrote. She wrote a book called The Annunciation that was very meaningful to me when I was a senior in high school or a freshman in college. It’s the one book that I seem to reread. It’s just a very empowering novel about a female. For fun, I love mysteries.
I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, in the town of Greenville. Reading was probably my favorite hobby, and I was always in the library or in our local neighborhood bookstore — the Mc- Cormick Book Inn. I was a complete bookworm and a nerdy kid in school.
As someone who worked in government in Florida, Florida’s Sunshine Law was very challenging. The open records, open meetings laws were often frustrating for our staff, and I think they’re frustrating for members of both parties that serve in government. But I also think they led to open dialogue and a transparent system that serves the public.
There has been a renaissance of independent bookstores as people begin to focus on supporting local businesses. Bookstores are community centers, where you can drop in and have a cup of coffee and have an interesting conversation, pick up a great read, and listen to a terrific author or a program. What’s really interesting is I thought COVID would shut that down because we did have to close our store for a while and move to online ordering, delivery and curb-side pickup, but our business has actually grown during COVID.
I find myself in this really odd position as a former Republican. I’m now no party affiliated in Florida, an independent. I switched at the end of the Republican National Convention in 2016 because I was so disgusted with the messaging that was coming out of the Trump campaign and the RNC. I hope the Republican Party can rebuild itself as a party of ideas, but I think that only happens if the party loses on every front in November.
Yes, I’ve seen Veep. I thought the writing was terrific. It’s actually amazingly realistic in terms of campaign life or life in a policymaking operation. There’s more truth to it than we would probably want to admit.
Read more in Florida Trend's October issue.
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