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11-4-2015


Democrats induct two into Hall of Fame
Active workers honored for years of service

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

Amid the soft chatter of a silent auction Saturday, Sharon Aring and Kathy Bray visited with a crowd of Platte County Democrats.

Aring, of Smithville, and Bray, of Kansas City, are well-known PlatteCounty political figures. Much of

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Sharon Aring
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Kathy Bray

 

the work they do for candidates and the Democratic party is behind the scenes, but both are well known for their involvement.

It came as no surprise to Democrats that these public servants were honored by the Platte County Democratic Central Committee for their longtime active participation in local politics.

Aring, 74, is the second of eight children. Despite the struggles of raising a large family, Aring's parents played an active role in politics, hosting fundraisers to support candidates they believed best represented their views.

Her father earned a living at General Motors and spoke openly in front of his children about the protections provided to union workers at the plant.

Aring said these early experiences were the seeds that fueled her desire to serve in politics.

Aring launched her own career in public service nearly three decades ago as a school board member. Her daughters, Kelly and Shari, joined her as she went door-to-door to convey her message.

The skills she acquired from her first campaign were used over the years as she assisted dozens of other Democratic candidates.

Pauli Kendrick, leader of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee, said she learn a lot from Aring over the years. The most important lesson is the value in asking people what issues are important to them and actively listening to their response.

Aring has served in several leading capacities on the Platte County Democratic Central Committee and the Democratic Women's Club. She also has served as an election supervisor at Platte County election polls and ran for second district Platte County Commissioner in 2012. Though she didn’t win the race, Aring said she is proud to have received over 8300 votes in her race.

A number of strong political voices thanked Aring for focusing public opinion on real issues.

“Sharon volunteered repeatedly at the Platte County Democratic Headquarters,” said Melba Nicolaisen, who introduced Aring at the introduction ceremony. “She was really superior at making calls on behalf of the candidates.”

It was stated that Aring was known to go off script to make a profound point.

Aring said she is proud to be a Democrat and has enjoyed every minute spent engaging members of the community. But perhaps one of her most cherished memories occurred in 2012 when she was selected to serve as the state delegate to the National Democratic Convention to re-nominate President Barack Obama.

“You can't do any better than that,” said Aring.

Bray was also inducted into the Platte County Hall of Fame Saturday at Saturday afternoon’s ceremony, which was held at the KCI Hilton in front of a crowd of more than 60 people.

As an educator, Bray became involved in politics while serving as an active member of the National Education Association (NEA) and the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA).

Her first political objective involved lobbying for collective bargaining rights for public employees.

In addition to furthering education and workforce issues, Bray has been a strong advocate for women's issues, including equal pay.

Despite being a single mother, Bray held several leadership roles in politics, including serving as a Democratic committeewoman.

“In the United States, Missouri has one of the most active political caucuses,” said Bray. “We work hard and we get involved in city council races. People forget that 50 percent of Kansas City is north of the river. These races are important. They are making decisions that affect you every day.”

Bray has also served as an election supervisor and through the years championed for a number of Democratic candidates, including Jerry Litton, Harriett Woods, Mel Carnahan, Bob Holden, and Kay Barnes.

“I do have a passion for politics,” said Bray. “I love it, because I can see you can change things.”

Today, the biggest struggle facing politics is getting people actively involved, she said.

“We need to get people more involved, because young people need to vote. The best voters are us older people, but what about the younger people? These issues will impact your future,” she said.