The power of love

by YES! Weekly staff


Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan and her husband, NC Sen. Don Vaughan, share more than an affinity for pubilc service. (photo by Brian Clarey)

Power couple: Sen. Don and Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan

It was a romance born in the close quarters of Greensboro City Council chambers, nurtured on the back of a Harley-Davidson and which flowered, somewhat ironically, on a tour of a wastewater treatment plant.

Don Vaughan, who represents District 27 in the NC Senate, and his wife Nancy, who currently serves as mayor pro tem of Greensboro, met in 1996 when Don served on council and Nancy was a neighborhood advocate fighting against a Jefferson-Pilot project slated for New Garden Road.

The former Nancy Mincello had argued many times before council — and her future husband — before being elected to the body herself for the first time in 1997. Don found himself in the somewhat awkward position of falling in love with a political adversary.

“I fell head over heels,” the senator says from an overstuffed leather chair in the couple’s home. “You never know when love is gone come around.”

Things happened quickly for the two: a marriage after a three-month courtship, followed shortly by the birth of their daughter, Katherine, and Nancy’s caesura from political life, which resumed with her election to council last fall.

When the two served on council together, Nancy says, they shared some of the same political vision but never thought of themselves as a voting bloc.

For his part, Don says, he approached his post from more of a legal perspective while Nancy was more of a neighborhood advocate.

“I guess I’ve learned something in the last 12 years,” he says. “I’ve represented at least 12 neighborhoods since then. She’s certainly had an effect on me.

“She hasn’t changed a bit,” he adds. “We may not always agree with the way the other has voted,” Nancy says. “I get worried about unfunded mandates — when the state doesn’t give us as much money as they were doing before. I understand the state is in worse shape than the city….”

“We certainly don’t agree on everything,” Don says.

They do agree that having a sitting council member and a state representative sharing a household has its advantages.

“We have that constant line of communication,” Nancy says. “We had a fellow council member [come to us] with a state issue just yesterday. He’s easy to find, let’s put it that way.”

“I understand the issues firsthand,” Don says, “and I can tackle them in Raleigh.”

“Sometimes I call and say, ‘I’m calling my senator,’” Nancy says.

Probably their biggest challenge is scheduling, the say.

Nancy has city council meetings on Tuesday nights and attends various civic functions throughout the week. Don spends much of his time in Raleigh, and he still maintains his Greensboro law practice [Disclosure: Don Vaughan is my lawyer]. Add to that the responsibilities associated with raising a young daughter and a yellow Labrador show dog named Remington, their joint fondness for ACC basketball and a busy social calendar. But the two selfdescribed “policy wonks” have common ground — the desire to serve and a love of Greensboro. And that, they say, is enough to keep the home fires burning.

“There is a mutual respect,” Nancy says. “We’ve been there — we served on council together. I respect what he does.

“She know where I come from,” Don adds.

And, he says, he still has the Harley out in the family garage.

“I think we’ve ridden it maybe five times in 11 years,” he says.

“And we’re not riding it anymore,” she says. “I just stopped the insurance on it.”

“You wanna buy a Harley?” Don asks .

Killian & Lehmert by Jordan Green

Greensboro News & Record reporters Joe Killian and Amanda Lehmert chase down leads while writing their own love story in real time. (photo by Jordan Green)

At the beginning of lunch, a simple and inexpensive meal at the elegant 223 South Elm, Joe Killian is the more gregarious of the two, but Amanda Lehmert is also very talkative. They sit back to back from each other in the News & Record newsroom. Killian covers county government and Lehmert, city government. Together with business reporter Richard Barron, the couple has been consumed in recent months with an unfolding controversy involving the use of federal recovery bonds to finance a downtown hotel.

Naturally, they both want to talk about work. Killian details his testy relationship with Guilford County Commission Chairman Skip Alston, and discloses how in a fit of compulsion he spent hours in a recent night reading through the past 20 years of his newspaper’s clips on Alston to try to understand the institutional animosity. Similarly, Killian wonders allowed how Alston can have such deep-seated and longstanding differences with fellow commissioner Paul Gibson, and still play golf with him. Lehmert reveals that Greensboro City Councilman

Robbie Perkins remarked to her that he misses political rival Mike Barber, who recently retired from the council. Then, the talk turns to the nuances of relationships between reporters from rival papers. Lehmert has a couple years’ experience at the city desk, which entails spending hours with Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer at city council meetings. She counsels Killian, who has been chagrined to find himself the subject of a recent Rhino story by colleague Scott Yost to take it stride.

Lehmert and Killian met through a program designed to teach journalism to teenagers in Bristol, Conn. Killian came in as a freshman; Lehmert was a sophomore. Their high schools were crosstown rivals.

They peg their burgeoning romance to a collaborative story that was Lehmert’s idea. The annual Chrysanthemum Festival in Bristol has a pageant called Miss Bristol and a junior pageant called Miss Mum.

“Connecticut is not really known for its pageant circuit,” Lehmert says. “There was no talent; it was all about beauty and poise. No, they did not have poise. They were gawky, awkward 14-year-olds wearing rhinestones. We wrote this article that said, ‘How stupid is this? This is a disgrace to our city.’ We made fun of our mayor, all the girls.”

The two cub reporters soon learned the consequences of afflicting the comfortable when they were publicly denounced by the mayor, now a state representative, who described their work during the Miss Bristol ceremony as “trash, trash, trash.”

Some reporters gravitate towards partners who are disinterested in their profession. For Killian and Lehmert, in contrast, journalism was the spark of their mutual attraction.”

“It definitely made me hot for her,” Killian says. “She is all balls. She’s maybe smoothed out now. But she always wore jeans and a chain. She was punk rock. And she was the loudest person in the room. The women in my family have always been like that. I remember when we sat in my family’s kitchen and she dictated as I typed. She sat down at the typewriter and rewrote everything.”

“He still thinks he’s the better typist,” Lehmert says. Killian admits that his wife is the better reporter, but he claims to be a superior typist and speller.

“The great thing about Joe that makes him a great husband and a great person to know is his passion,” Lehmert says. “That’s also what makes him a great journalist.”

They went to prom together and remained the best of friends, often to the detriment of their romantic relationships in the interim. Killian moved to North Carolina, attended UNCG, and landed a job at the News & Record before he’d graduated. Lehmert attended Emerson College in Boston, and took her first newspaper job with the Cape Cod Times.

Killian did an internship one summer at the Cape Cod Times.

“One of the most fascinating things was seeing Amanda maturing as a reporter,” he says. “She was so bad-ass. We stayed up late talking about the stories we wanted to do. It was apparent then that we both wanted to be in journalism.”

Neither can imagine being in a relationship with someone who isn’t in the business. Killian says it’s a job like being a cop or a teacher, something you have to love to do rather than a practical means to enable other passions. The hours are long and the pay low, Lehmert adds. Plans have to be soft, and a date might have to be postponed if there’s a new lawsuit or some other important development to report.

They do take their work home because, they say, they need to decompress about a tense exchange with an editor or a difficult source, but then they soon move onto more mundane matters like feeding the cat and making dinner.

“The annoying thing is that now that he’s in the county beat, he has a desk behind me,” Lehmert says. “I can never get anything done because he’ll be saying, ‘You would never believe what I uncovered.’ ‘I can believe it. Tell me later.’” They got married last June at the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro.

Killian hatched a plan to propose to Lehmert in the Bristol Press building, which was considered at risk of closing at the time. He had already told many of his friends, along with Lehmert’s family, about his intentions. They left North Carolina on Christmas Eve.

“The car breaks down on the New Jersey Parkway,” Killian recalls. “She has no idea the ring is in my pocket.”

Lehmert picks up the thread: “Joe doesn’t have cold-weather clothes. I had bought him this hat. I said, ‘Honey, let’s exchange gifts. Come on.’” “I said to myself, the whole day was blown,” Killian says. “We were inches from New York City, and we couldn’t get the car fixed on Christmas Day. There were no Buddhists around. We took a cab into Bristol. She was exhausted. She’s an emotional wreck. She cried in bed. I’m cuddling her, trying to make her feel better. I’m like, ‘I’m throwing this out.’ Then, I realized: She has this big family of Germans and French. They already know. As soon as we walk in, they’re going to say, ‘Congratulations.’ I said, ‘Let’s drive around and talk about old times. The newspaper building was locked up. I had thought: I’ll propose to her in the very place where we met. I proposed to her in the parking lot.”

Lehmert describes her response with typical reportorial concision: “I cried.

And I kissed him. And I said, ‘Yes.’” Actually, she was a step ahead. “This is about being a good reporter,” she says. “I had already known he was going to propose to me for six months. I was calling Liz Seymour for a story. She’s said, ‘I hear congratulations are in order.’ She had heard from a friend of a friend of a friend, who was supposed to keep it a secret. She was so apologetic, but she didn’t know it was a secret. I guess Greensboro is a smaller town than you think.”

Making beautiful music: Kim Lawson and Richard Emmett ‘by Keith T. Barber

To keep a relationship together, there must be a uniting force or “glue.” In the case of Kim Lawson and Richard Emmett, it might appear that the glue that has kept their 10-year marriage together is their mutual love of music — Americana and folk music to be exact. While working together at West End Caf’ 12 years ago, Kim and Richard shared an exchange of thoughts and ideas that altered the course of their lives. Kim said she had just received the Mermaid Avenue CD — the collaborative effort by Billy Bragg and Wilco to put the unheard lyrics of Woody Guthrie to music — when Richard approached her.

“Richard comes over and he’s like, ‘What’s that?’ and I’m like, ‘You don’t know anything about this so just back off,’ because I had just gotten it in my hands,” Kim said. “He was like, ‘Is that Mermaid Avenue?’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you know this CD?’ and he did. So for me that was the lightning bolt.”

Richard smiled as Kim finished her story.

“Wow! That we liked the same kind of music.

That’s funny,” he said.

“Well, you had a nice behind but I didn’t want to say that out loud,” Kim retorted.

Kim and Richard reminisced about the beginnings of their romance last week while sitting in a booth inside the Garage, the Winston-Salem music venue they co-founded 10 years ago.

Richard remembered a road trip to Chapel Hill to see a music show with folk-rocker Tim Easton as the seminal moment when he began to feel something stronger than friendship for Kim. Kim said she had already started to fall for Richard, but it took him a while to come around.

“I tell people I had to hit him over the head with a big cast-iron skillet,” Kim said.

Kim and Richard’s romance could best be described as whirlwind. Three months after meeting, they got engaged.

“We met, we kissed, we got engaged,” Kim said. Kim and Richard’s romance is a testament to the old saying that opposites attract.

“We complement each other well,” Richard said “Together, we’re a whole person,” Kim added. Kim is very outgoing and great with people, which makes her perfectly suited for the job of bar manager at the Garage. Richard, chief operating officer of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, serves as the guy behind the scenes in the family business.

The Garage has always played a central role in Kim and Richard’s lives. They held their first show at the renovated muffler shop off 7 th Street just two weeks after being married in October 1999. Poetically, Richard and Kim booked Tim Easton to be the Garage’s opening act.

Kim and Richard celebrated their 10 th anniversary last October. Kim described her marriage to Richard as an adventure that she wouldn’t trade for the world.

“He’s very stimulating and inspiring,” she said.

“I always wanted to marry someone smarter than me and someone who would not bore me, and I’m not bored at all.”

Then Kim turned to Richard, her eyes filled with love and said: “You inspire me to be a better person.”

The past 10 years have brought great change to Kim and Richard’s lives, including the birth of their sons, Aubrey and Levi. Now that she works full time at the Garage, Kim said she fully appreciates everything Richard did in the early days to make the business a success.

Kim admits to hating the Garage at one time because she felt it kept her family apart. Now she knows what it feels like to spend time away from her children while Richard is finally enjoying the luxury of more one-onone time with Aubrey and Levi. For Kim and Richard, the challenge remains the same: finding a balance between their busy professional and personal lives.

“To me, balance is nirvana,” Kim said. “I think balance is everybody’s challenge, but it is a central theme for us because we are so opposite.”

In retrospect, Kim and Richard’s shared love of folk music sparked their initial attraction, but the “glue” that’s held everything together for more than a decade appears to be their willingness to make big personal sacrifices in the name of something greater than themselves, namely their marriage and their family.

“It works really well,” Richard said.

Richard Emmett and Kim Lawson have a soundtrack to their marriage, courtesy of the Garage music club in Winston-Salem. (photo by Keith T. Barber)

Not just business: Sarah and Jamie Bartholomaus by Keith T. Barber

Lengthy courtships have their pros and cons. In the case of Sarah and Jamie Bartholomaus, the owners of Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, patience has proven to be the greatest virtue of all.

Sarah recalls first meeting Jamie at the Olde Hickory Brewing Company more than 10 years ago when Jamie served as brewmaster. After a few conversations at the bar, Sarah soon learned there was much more to him than just a passion for making beer.

“His background is in anthropology and archaeology,” Sarah said. “We just had lots of interesting conversations over a couple of pints. Sparks were flying after that.”

Sarah describes Jamie’s most attractive quality as his openness to new ideas, different cultures and varieties of food, as well as his hard-working nature. Sarah knows something about hard work.

When she met Jamie, Sarah was putting herself through school at Appalachian State University by working a number of restaurant and service industry jobs. Upon graduation, Sarah pursued her masters from UNC- Charlotte while working full-time and keeping her relationship going with Jamie.

On March 17, 2005, all of Sarah and Jamie’s hard work paid off.

Six years after their first meeting, the couple opened Foothills Brewery on 4 th Street in Winston-Salem. Two months later, Sarah and Jamie tied the knot. Shortly after their honeymoon, they bought their first house.

Partners in the truest sense, Sarah serves as the general manager of Foothills while Jamie serves as presi dent, owner and brewmaster. The division of labor works well for the couple, Sarah said.

“We work really well together,” she said. “I’ve always been thankful for that. I look back at the last 10 years and we’ve really, just through hard work and working together, we’ve really achieved a lot. I feel we’re truly two blessed individuals to have each other.”

Like many couples, Sarah said the greatest challenge for her and Jamie is carving out personal time together.

“It is very challenging,” she said.

“Jamie is definitely a workaholic; he works seven days a week. It puts a small strain because we don’t get the personal time, and a lot of our personal time is about work.”

Sarah said she and Jamie work hard to keep the lines of communication open, which enables them to resolve the inherent conflicts that arise when running a business with your spouse.

Sarah said she is currently expecting her and Jamie’s first child. She’s due in August. One of the lessons of motherhood holds true for marriage in general: You can’t predict what the future will hold.

“My father is a Southern Baptist minister, so opening a brewery and marrying someone of Jewish descent was not exactly in my picture of what my life would be like,” she said. “You never know how life is going to unfold.”

When their baby comes into the picture, Sarah said she expects significant changes in her and Jamie’s lifestyle. In the meantime, they will continue as they always have — working hard to build a future at Foothills, which has become the center of their lives.

“This is our baby as well,” Sarah said.

For Jamie and Sarah Bartholomaus, beer is the elixir of love. (photo by Keith T. Barber)