To Charlie Keller, Bob Goodlatte’s DC Chief of Staff

Dear Charlie,

Again, thank you for meeting with me on Tuesday. I think both the tone and substance of our conversation are exactly what constituents need from their elected officials right now. I hope very much that we can expand our exchange to include other residents of Lexington and Rockbridge county and of course Mr. Goodlatte himself.

We agreed that a traditional town hall would be unproductive from the Congressman’s perspective. I personally wouldn’t want to stand in front of a thousand angry protestors waving signs and hurling insults at me either. Instead I propose Mr. Goodlatte meet with a smaller, civil, and balanced group of one hundred local residents.

Instead of a venue like the Rockbridge Country High School auditorium, which can seat an enormous crowd, we could meet in the community center where our Delegate Ben Cline holds his annual town hall. It comfortably fits about one hundred people.

I am a member of a local activist organization called 50 Ways Rockbridge. I suggest 50 Ways co-host the event with the Rockbridge Republicans. Each organization could then give out fifty tickets in advance, guaranteeing a balanced audience.

As far as keeping the tone civil, the other 50 Ways organizers and I can deliver that. Please ask Debbie Garett and Pete Larkin how they have been treated at the monthly Open Door meetings. I believe they will tell you that attendees are passionate but respectful and never disruptive. I have only heard Debbie address the room as a whole once, demanding that others not interrupt questioners with shouted comments. That was at the most recent meeting when members of the Rockbridge Republicans attended for the first time this year. But the new attendees quickly adopted the norms of the room, and the meeting continued respectfully.

I met Roger Jarell, the chair of the Rockbridge Area Republican Committee, afterwards. We and a few other folks stayed after Debbie had to leave, and the conversation was both civil and productive. I’ve since reached out to Roger about co-organizing events. I haven’t heard back from him yet, but I have to imagine he would be excited to host Mr. Goodlatte too.

I may be over optimistic, but I think we can model a town hall format that would be attractive to other members of Congress too—something much closer to real conversations. That means no signs and shouts from constituents and no evasive half-truths from Representatives. As I said, our conversation on Tuesday was personally so useful and satisfying to me because you responded with real substance.  We were able to speak back and forth and hear in a meaningful way what the other was saying. That is exactly what our country needs right now, and I would like to see it start in Lexington. I hope you do too.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Chris Gavaler


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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