WATAUGA COUNTY, NC – A former teacher and law enforcement professional has his eyes on getting elected to public office in 2022. The former sheriff’s deputy is looking to run against Representative Virginia Foxx in the primaries and then go on to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On March 18th, I had an opportunity to converse with Michael Ackerman about his ambitions for office. During the hour-long conversation, his comments completely subverted my preconceived expectations regarding typical exchanges with political-hopefuls.
One of the first questions I asked Ackerman was what he believes he’d bring to the table in the realm of politics that would distinguish him from what many have come to expect with run-of-the-mill elected officials.
Ackerman responded with the following:
“Direct honesty to the constituency. I am not afraid to call a duck a duck. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it’s a duck. I’m not going to get into politi-speak – I’m not a career politician. I’m not interested in stroking lobbyists backs. I am honestly doing this because I want to help.”
Like many people across the country, Ackerman is frustrated with elected representatives that appear to not be doing a good job of representing the interests of their constituents:
“Unfortunately, career politicians on both sides of the aisle have forgotten why they are in Washington.”
Ackerman’s career experience is a rather unique blend, having worked as a teacher at the Navajo reservation in Arizona after graduating from App State in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in history secondary education. Then in 2004, he left his teaching career to become a police officer in Arizona, and then moved on to being a sheriff’s deputy in Charleston County, South Carolina.
One of the aspects that gets under Ackerman’s skin currently is how representatives within the Democratic and Republican parties, along with their party constituents, have devolved the process in which matters are discussed and bi-partisan solutions are achieved:
“We’ve lost the art of civil discourse in this nation. Being able to debate in a very direct and thoughtful manner.”
With Ackerman’s robust background, which includes his 14 years in law enforcement, I asked him about legislative topics that have been gaining steam in recent years – namely, the active adoption by many states permitting the use of recreational marijuana for adults.
When I’ve posed this question to other individuals previously, be they elected officials, political-hopefuls, or pundits, I’ve become used to just getting a hardline answer of “yes” or “no” on whether marijuana should be legalized.
But the way Ackerman responded to the question is representative of exactly the type of people this country needs involved in the legislative processes and discussions:
“My thoughts on that are I kind see both sides of that argument, obviously.
“My biggest take on this is, once again, politicians – in general – they’ll take a complicated topic like legalizing marijuana and they want to have a one-pill solution to it, ‘Oh we’ll, just legalize it’.”
Instead of the typical firm stance of being against or for the legalization of cannabis, Ackerman delved into what issues need to be addressed from a public-safety perspective as it relates to identifying impaired drivers under the influence of marijuana.
It’s perhaps one of the most reasonable takes on the matter that this author has heard.
While politics have almost become a spectator sport to see who can deliver the most entertaining abject criticism of political opponents, Ackerman wants to approach matters with sincere questions on how to navigate the complexities that arise with entertaining or implementing novel legislation.
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But overall, Ackerman says that if the people who elect him genuinely want something done at the legislative level, it is his role as an elected official to represent his constituents’ interests:
“If my constituents want something, and that’s what they want, my job is to represent them. And even if I don’t necessarily agree with it, but that’s what they want, I’m going to fight for what they want.
They put me in office to do a job for them. They don’t work for me; I work for them.”
For anyone who has kept an eye on how politics is played, they’re aware that anyone running for any type of office is going to be subjected to political attacks against their campaign and character.
It’s simply an inevitability, especially with how information is disseminated and shared in today’s world.
With that in mind, I asked Ackerman how he would handle such instances when he hits the campaign trail to secure a seat in the House:
“I’m 51 years old and I’ve lived life. And when I say that I lived life, I mean that I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my past. I’m not going to shy away from that.
If they want to bring up something that happened 20 years ago, 10 years ago, a mistake I made – if it’s true, then I’m going to admit to it. Why would I not? There’s nobody that lives on this planet that is perfect. And I’m not trying to portray to be anybody but myself.”
Among other topics related to politics that have been getting much needed attention as of late is the concept of career politicians. And Ackerman has zero desire to be one.
As an avid advocate for term limits, Ackerman aims to get elected, work for his constituents, and leave office so that future candidates can carry on the work from there.
While Ackerman hopes to be elected and represent those who elect him, he also does want to shed light on issues he personally feels haven’t been getting the needed attention in Washington.
One issue in particular he’s passionate about is resources for first responders dealing with PTSD.
It’s a topic that hits close to home for Ackerman, as he witnessed the death of his partner and was shot himself in 2014 when responding to an incident involving an armed subject:
“Another big issue that I want to work hard towards, if elected, is dealing with the PTSD issues for first responders. Not only improving it for first responders but continue the improvement that’s been done for veterans.
“There’s so much more that needs to be done to protect our first responders. Not only to protect them mentally but provide the right kind of support when they do need that help.”
Then there’s the topic of criminal justice reform, and the many iterations it has currently and what other approaches can be taken on the matter.
Ackerman, once again, showcased that he’s a stand-out observer on the topic, saying that it’s more complex then just letting people out of prison earlier:
“That’s a very complicated issue, and there are so many different aspects you have to look at. My short answer on this is stop trying to come up with a one-pill solution. There is no one-pill solution to it.
“For example, this prison reform that’s going on. When basically all the prison reform is shortening the sentences for minorities. That’s all it is. It just makes people feel better…but it doesn’t really do anything. It doesn’t really address the real problem.
“We have to break down each part of it, and we have to look at each part independently.
“There are evil people – I know it makes some people uncomfortable to say it, but there are evil people out there who want to do nothing more than hurt, control, maim – whatever.
“Then you have to accept that there are people in prison who made an honest mistake, who maybe were suffering at the time or maybe hit a bad patch in life and made a bad mistake. And they deserve a second chance.
We should definitely have a better system for when people get out on parole or when they exit prison to help them reincorporate into mainstream life. We don’t right now, and I know this for a fact.”
While the primaries are over a year away as of this writing, Ackerman hopes that he can gain the support to achieve winning the District 5 seat for the House. You can follow Ackerman on Facebook here to stay up to date on his campaign efforts.
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Author: Gregory Hoyt