BONIFAY — Though she’s still settling into her new role as the mayor of Lynn Haven, Margo Anderson found time last week to share her political journey and her love for Patsy Cline with the Bonifay Kiwanis Club.

BONIFAY — Though she’s still settling into her new role as the mayor of Lynn Haven, Margo Anderson found time last week to share her political journey and her love for Patsy Cline with the Bonifay Kiwanis Club.

“Running for mayor of Lynn Haven is not something I planned to do,” said Anderson. “It arose out of a lot of different issues in my town that I thought needed some attention.”

Anderson opened her speech at the Kiwanis meeting June 17 by telling the Kiwanis about her special connection to Holmes County. Her mother, Geraldine Davidson Deal, grew up in Holmes County a part of the Stafford and Tadlock families, leaving a special place in Anderson’s heart for her neighboring county to the north.

Anderson put down roots in Lynn Haven after her mother met her father, Louie “Whit” Deal, from Houston County, Ala. and married him in 1952. The couple moved to Lynn Haven and started their family.

Public service to Lynn Haven runs in Anderson’s blood, as her father was a former Lynn Haven City Commissioner. Anderson is just one month into her term as mayor that started with a very simple campaign strategy.

“Mainly, I thought there was a missing link between the people and the people running the city,” said Anderson.

Anderson said she went after the mayor’s seat with a grassroots campaign, using no television or radio advertisements. She got ahead by taking out newspaper ads, answering telephone inquiries and going door-to-door to disseminate brochures and personally reach out to as many of the 18,000 residents of Lynn Haven as possible.

“I knew I had won in my heart. It was the right time and the right path. It was the road I had not taken before,” said Anderson.

Anderson takes personal inspiration from Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” The narrator in the poem opted to go the path not taken by others and in the end it made all the difference. Anderson saw Frost himself deliver the poem orally on a field trip to Gainesville with her third-grade class in 1963.

But it was the example set by her father that really made the poem’s meaning hit home.

“I was the first person in my family to go to high school. I’m from a very poor family,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s father was a carpenter struggling to support his family when he took an opportunity in 1959 to join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“He had an eighth-grade education and he started out low on the totem pole,” said Anderson. “He eventually earned his Professional Engineering degree with a portfolio from the University of Wisconsin.”

Deal’s job took his family on a new life path living all over the U.S. and other parts of the globe. Anderson had been through 24 different schools by the time she graduated high school. All of the moving gave her an immense appreciation for the laidback living in her hometown of Lynn Haven. She finally settled in the city for good in 1985 when her father retired.

Anderson was inspired by her father’s drive to turn his family’s life around by pursuing a new career opportunity despite what he lacked in his education. Deal enjoyed a career he loved and put his kids through college.

Anderson obtained a Master’s in Language and Literature. She is currently a staff training specialist with Bay District Schools.

She shared with Kiwanis how her first taste of politics wasn’t during her bid for mayor, but as a young “angry teacher” in her 30s. Now at the age of 60, Anderson reflected on how she was propelled by a desire to see change as her reason to run for school board early in her teaching career. She ran twice, but lost both times.

“Probably the secret to my success (now) is how many times I have failed,” said Anderson.

Two futile runs for school board at least taught her how to be a contender in an election. Today, Anderson feels she did make a positive difference in the school district by voicing the need for teachers to have access to phones in their classrooms and the school board office having too many people on staff.

Anderson humbly said she knows she is not the only driving force for change and is grateful to be a part of it. She is also thankful for support from family, friends and her husband, Lee Anderson.

She is also thankful for failure.

“Failure is the key to success, especially to young people,” said Anderson. “Young people are our biggest asset and most valuable thing society has today.”

She hopes the younger generation will see each failure as an opportunity to learn something new. Anderson performed as a country artist in Nashville in the early 1980s, but she didn’t feel like a winner when her plans to make it big didn’t work out quite as she dreamed. Anderson put down that dream for a while until her husband came along and encouraged her to go after her passion again.

Anderson finally found her niche with a tribute to Patsy Cline, which she still performs in full wig and dress all over the southeast with a traveling band. She has sung the national anthem for NASCAR fans and done her Patsy Cline routine at festivals and sold out shows.

Anderson anchored the impression she made on Bonifay Kiwanians by serenading them with two Patsy Cline hits, “I Fall to Pieces” and “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad” before she was finished.

Anderson never saw failure as an absolute, but an opportunity to choose a different path based on lessons learned. She said she opened her heart to other possibilities and trusted God to guide her down new paths.

She’s been asked many times what she will do different than past leadership as she starts down the new path as mayor. Anderson said she will truly listen to people and try to be patient with the slow process of change. 

Anderson is still getting to know each department in her city and getting acclimated to serving alongside an all male board of commissioners and other city leaders.

“I think women sometimes have sensitivities to different issues than men have, which doesn’t necessarily make them a better leader but a different kind of leader,” she said.

Anderson said she is striving to build a good relationship with her peers and hopes a mixture of “persistence, cordiality and sincerity” will go a long way as she merges with a male dominated city government to be a part of a team that’s effective in chipping away at over $20 million of debt and at addressing the city’s biggest problems.

Anderson said her sights are set on tackling the city’s drainage problems that cause homes to flood and sometimes leave up to 12 inches of water in city streets after a heavy downpour.

“That’s a number one priority for me that we get our storm water under control and get our funds that are meant for storm water into the right department for handling those issues,” said Anderson.

Drainage issues point to other problems with “improperly” paved streets and runoff collecting in the bayous.

“We have a lot of pristine bayous in Lynn Haven which are our tourist attraction,” she said. “These are our beautiful parks and places people come to and they are filled with silt and runoff from storm water into the bayou.”

The runoff had also negatively impacted fishing.

Along the way, Anderson changed her political affiliation to independent, which she embraces as a city official who needs to be nonpartisan and be able lend equal listening and consideration to all people in her community.

Much like her singing career, Anderson feels like she finally found the right time and place to follow the path of leadership.

“It’s so exciting,” said Anderson. “I’m excited to get up every day now.”