Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich paid a visit to the White House earlier this month to attend a meeting for North Carolina’s elected officials on intergovernmental relationships between local and federal officials.
Rich was the only Orange County commissioner to attend, although officials from Durham and Wake counties were also in attendance.
As an outspoken progressive, Rich said many colleagues were taken off guard that she would visit the Trump White House.
“Folks were a little shocked that I was going because I’ve got a pretty loud voice, and I’m not shy about letting people know how I feel and my opinion,” said Rich. “However, I kept on saying; if you’re not on the table, then you’re not being heard.”
While President Trump was not in attendance, speeches were delivered by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway.
The two main subjects of discussion were infrastructure for internet and broadband in rural communities and school safety, and the meeting took place during the national school walk out to protest gun violence in schools on March 14.
“I spent my morning out with these kids that were fabulous,” said Rich. “They were protesting, and they don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, that’s not what they wanted to talk about. They wanted to talk about guns. They wanted to talk about not being murdered at school.”
Although Rich said the uncomfortable nature of the meeting made her get up and leave in the middle of Conway’s speech, she does feel hopeful that the Omnibus spending bill could result in more money for Orange County infrastructure.
“The progress that we want for our comprehensive transit plan and the money that we need for that, it looks like that could be on the table,” said Rich.
Photo via Orange County