My position on issues and my political philosophy are greatly influenced by my life experiences. My parents were both products of the Great Depression and the drought that followed in the Mid-West. They overcame poverty through sheer determination; they worked hard, took risks, accepted responsibility, persevered and marveled at their good fortune. They taught us children that America is great country where anyone can succeed if given the opportunity. They urged us to get a good education and leave the world a better place.
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Verla Clemens Insko was born in Decatur, Arkansas, the third of four children in a farming family that moved to Modesto, CA in 1941 to escape the ravages of the drought that followed the Great Depression.
During WWII, her father served in the army in France. The daily world and national news became a routine and important part of life for the entire family. It was a habit that, for Verla, evolved into a life-long interest in government and a commitment to social justice.
Verla attended public school in Modesto when the CA public schools were among the best in the nation. During her elementary years, she developed a love of reading and a curiosity about the natural world. Her high school counselors guided her into a college prep curriculum.
With the help of a work-study program and low tuition, Verla received and A.B. in Biology from Fresno State College and became the first in her family to graduate from college. Always active in her church, Verla spent 3 semesters doing graduate work at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley. That was followed by a graduate internship in education at UC-Berkeley and her first position as a junior high school science teacher.
Career, Community Service and Politics
At Burbank Junior High School in Berkeley, Verla was on one of the first team teaching projects in the U.S. When her husband, Chet, accepted a position at the University of Hawaii, Verla transferred to the Kamehameha Schools, a residential school for children of Hawaiian decent and one of the most highly endowed schools in the world.
When, the Insko family moved to Chapel Hill in 1965, Verla turned her attention to being a full-time mother and a part-time community activist.
As a board member for the Orange County Partnership for young children, she developed a commitment to early childhood education and as the chair of the Orange County Women's Center, she saw the impact discrimination and limited rights had women and their ability to be safe and thrive in the world.
Her first experience in local politics was Howard Lee's historic race to become the first black mayor of a predominately white Southern community. Later, when he ran for U.S. Congress, she got a taste of power politics. Mr. Lee lost the race in part because white landowners kept black workers in the field until after the polls closed.
When she learned the junior high school her son would attend was still having integration problems, Verla organized parents to work with the school principal and faculty to help resolve the situation. That fall Verla won a seat on the Chapel Hill Carrboro Board of Education and became an advocate for diversity in every classroom, programs for gifted student students and improving services for children with special needs.
During her four year stint on the Orange County Board of Commissioners she increased funding for education, expanded and improved health and human services and developed an interest in farmland preservation.
Following David Price's election to Congress, Verla worked as an aide in his Raleigh office where she solved constituent problems, saw the power and the limitations of government and learned her way around D.C. and Raleigh.
When she accepted the position of program administrator with UNC Sickle Cell Program she combined her interest in health care with her knowledge of government agencies. To gain more administrative and management skills, she enrolled in a part time three year program that led to masters in public administration (MPA) from UNC Chapel Hill. She retired in 1994.
In 1996, a seat in the North Carolina House opened and she was elected to her first term in the 1997-98 session of the General Assembly.
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