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Twenty-five years ago, Azalia Barfield decided to run for Carlisle council

Times file photo: Along with being on the Carlisle Town Council, Azalia Barfield also helps with community events. Here she is playing Mrs. Claus, right, at the 2018 Carlisle Christmas Parade.

One woman wanted to make a difference in her own community so, in 1994, she decided to run to be on the town council for Carlisle.

Azalia Barfield, 78, is still the third district representative for Carlisle and she has announced that she is running for another term. She said she doesn’t regret her original decision to run for office.

It started with Barfield going to council meetings for the town.

“The meetings were held in the town marshal’s office,” Barfield said. “… I always tried to get there early because there was like four seats. People would sit on the floor or people would stand with the door open.”

In that crowded room, she listened to those in charge of the ambulance service at the time make a request.

“The ambulance service came and requested that a lean-to be built to put their other ambulance in,” she said. “Most of the time they had two ambulances but they only had enough parking space for one.”

This is a problem because the ambulance has to be warm, Barfield explained.

“You can’t just leave them out in the cold and all of the weather,” she said. “All the things in them have to be warm.”

The council at the time said no to the request.

“It was always we don’t have the money, we can’t do that,” Barfield said. “I thought to myself there has to be something that can be done.”

This thought process led her to run in her first political race.

“I believe the second year (I) was in office, they finished building the ambulance barn and the new water office (new at that time),” Barfield said. “We ended up giving that little shop to the town marshal.”

Now the town meets in the Carlisle Town Hall.

Running her first race

When she decided to run in her first race, Barfield had no idea what she needed to do. She was 54 at the time.

“I went and talked to the Democrat chairperson at the time because I had never been involved in anything like this before,” she said. “I thought you just get elected and you do what you want to do. It ain’t quite like that.”

There were three people signed up to run that year as Democrats. This meant they needed a caucus.

“We have to have 10 people here for a caucus, I was told,” Barfield said. “Hardly ever do 10 people show up. We had 20-something people there.”

Barfield said she talked to town members to get them to show up.

“My mom was there, my daughter was there,” she said. “I knew I had two votes anyway.”

She remembers her mother’s reaction to her running for office.

“Momma (Bessie Miller) thought it was just great,” Barfield said. “… Momma, she was really proud.”

Her family helped a lot she said.

A woman in the boys club

Barfield is not the first woman to be on the Carlisle Town Council, but the second. When she joined though it was just men.

“I found out years before me, they had had one lady,” Barfield.

Being the only women on the council and working with the town, she said there were a few things she had to overcome. One thing was her temper.

“Someone would call me with a problem and I would just be boiling,” Barfield said. “I would be what can we do and how can we fix it.”

Bill Orr was the council president when she started and Barfield credits him for helping her learn.

“I would call him up and just vent to him,” Barfield said. “When I got done, then he would talk to me.”

She said you have to learn.

“You want everything to be nice,” Barfield said. “You want people to be nice.”

To make things better in the town, she said it takes a lot of effort.

Barfield doesn’t feel like it hurt her being a woman but she did have challenges because of it.

“I know how men are,” Barfield said. “It is a good old boys club and I am not a member. I just let that go.”

She had to learn not to take things personally.

“It’s not my fault,” she said. “I used to. I did when I first got in office …”

Overall, she said it wasn’t that hard to work with the boys.

“You have to know me,” Barfield said. “You have to know how I think. Sometimes somebody will think you are a complete idiot … it is the fact that I am about Carlisle. I’m not about making myself look better. I am about what can I do to help Carlisle be a better little town.”

While she has had hard times on the council, Barfield said she is glad to be working to help improve the town of Carlisle.

“There has been times I was exasperated but this is my little town,” Barfield said.

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