Continuing our run of exciting interviews here at the Lucky 13s, I submit the transcript to my conversation with Richard Burke, beloved mayor of Stepton, Virginia. A place some are calling "The Little City That Could". In recent years Stepton has seen an economic boon unrivaled by any other small to mid-sized cities in the state. Despite the national recession, and record unemployment across the country, things just seem to get better and better in this tiny burg.
It's almost scary.
LRG: Good morning, Mister Burke.
MB: What's with this 'mister' stuff? You don't have to be so formal. Just call me 'The Mayor'.
LRG: Um, okay. Mayor, you--
MB: You forgot the 'The'.
LRG: I forgot the--you know what, that's weird. I'll call you Mayor Burke. Cool?
MB: Suit yourself.
LRG: Mayor Burke, how are you doing it? Stepton is thriving under your leadership. A bunch of new construction, plenty of jobs, folks are leaving major cities to live here. What's the draw?
MB: Good living and good neighbors. People get to know each other here, watch out for one another.
LRG: Like family?
LRG: It wasn't always like that though, was it?
MB: I don't follow.
LRG: Your first term as mayor saw record highs in crime and violence. Whole sections of the city were rundown or vacant. The town was dying.
MB: That's an exaggeration.
LRG: I'm referencing an editorial from a 2005 issue of the Stepton Gazette titled, "Our Town is Dying".
MB: That editor has since moved on.
LRG: True, but you've been mayor for 7 years, and city's uptick took place over the last 4 years. The drop in your crime stats alone is miraculous. While most places have gotten worse, Stepton's gotten better. Something must have changed.
MB: Certainly. Our determination. Our resolve.
MB: Never underestimate the power of the human spirit, young man.
LRG: Or the power of cliches.
MB: Excuse me?
LRG: Not quite yet. The unity you're promoting doesn't seem to have trickled down to the teens at the local high school. There have been a number of assaults, a recent suicide. All kept remarkably quiet. I really had to dig to find out about them. How's that fit within your personal mission statement?
MB: I'm not aware of any such events.
LRG: I figured you'd say that. So, what's 'Whispertown' mean?
LRG: Mayor Burke, I said--
MB: I heard you. [presses button on phone] Sheriff Hill, would you see Mister Giles out?
LRG: Wait. What?
MB: I'm afraid I double-booked and I have some urgent meetings to attend.
Sheriff Hil enters.
SH: Let's go buddy.
LRG: Hey, get your hands off me!
MB: Good to meet you Mister Giles.
LRG: Hold on, hold on. One last question.
MB: I just don't have the time.
LRG: New people are moving to this town every day thinking it's some sort of oasis. A fresh start. Are they going to be happy when they discover the real Stepton?
MB: They better be. Good day, sir.
That concludes my 'interview' with Mayor Burke. I had more detailed notes, but Sheriff Hill took those. He didn't know about the digital recorder app on my phone, though. Or about my source.
The kid who fed me that 'Whispertown' bit is a brave one. I hope he's not in over his head.
I'm probably hoping for too much.
Lamar "L. R." Giles writes for adults and teens. Penning everything from epic fantasy to noir thrillers, he's never met a genre he didn't like. His debut YA mystery WHISPERTOWN is about a teen in witness protection who investigates his best friend's murder and stumbles on a dark conspiracy that leads back to his own father. It will be published in Summer, 2013 by HarperCollins. He resides in Virginia with his wife and is represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Find out more on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.