Truthfully, you never know what you're going to get in Edenton and Chowan County.
The people are an eclectic blend, which makes this series of stories as fascinating as exploring new worlds.
Saoirse Littlebear Scott – she's the new girl in town. Dig the name – more on that in a minute.
As a Lead for North Carolina Fellow, Scott is working for the Town of Edenton.
“I've always been interested in politics, public service and helping people,”said Scott, who graduated in May from UNC-Chapel Hill. “I've not always known what I wanted to do per se or how I was going to do it, but I always wanted to give back to communities and help people.”
While Scott is driven to serve others and aspires to do government work, she is definitely not someone who is tight-shouldered, a type “A” personality.
To provide context to that statement, Scott sang with an a capella group in college, played intramural soccer and worked with a nonprofit group to become a well-rounded individual rather than taking the traditional, albeit boring, route known to many students who aspire to be public servants – tour of duty with student government followed by working for a political campaign, then a master’s degree in public administration or law school.
Put simply, Scott has “soul” — a character trait you can't teach in school, but must be learned from an eclectic blend of experiences that shape the spirit to create a flavor and zest for life.
What's in a name?
Scott's parents met while salmon fishing in Alaska. And it gets better. She was born in a one-room cabin near the Arctic Circle, a corner of Alaska that is so remote that the only way to travel there is via helicopter or dog sled. Later, her parents worked for the National Weather Service.
Rather than giving their baby a name at the outset that may or may not stick for the rest of that child's life, Scott's parents waited a few months like some folks do to be inspired and gauge what name fits best because really, you don't want to get stuck with a name like Britney Shakira Beyonce or Roscoe Talmadge Layton III, now otherwise known as Nick Layton.
Scott's first name, Saoirse, means “freedom” in Gaelic. That's fitting as her mother Averil is Irish.
“Saoirse — that's my favorite part about my name. I think it is so cool. The women of my family have fun names,” she said. Her sister's name is Omara.
Then comes the Scott's middle name “Littlebear” which comes with a story.
“Littlebear — there was a large, large grizzly bear outside our family's cabin a couple of days after I was born,” she said. “So I was kind of named because of that. And they just called me Littlebear until they gave me my full name Saoirse Littlebear Scott.”
Scott's family moved to the Appalachian mountains and she grew up in Otto, which is a short hop from Franklin in Macon County.
“We grew up right next to the national forest, so we spent a lot of time outdoors,” she said. “I was outside a lot. I appreciate nature and the outdoors and love doing outdoorsy things such as hiking.”
Because life is hard in the mountains, anyone who has lived in Appalachia for an extended period of time is embued with superpowers. In addition to super strength, speed and endurance, these folks understand how to get along with their neighbors, embrace their families, know the value of hard work – nothing is taken for granted.
“I value hard work – most people in Appalachia are working one or two jobs,” she said. “We're family oriented. Great place to grow up.”
Scott was home-schooled for 11 years before matriculating into Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, a high school in rural Georgia, about 8 miles or so from her home. Scott said the student body is very diverse with kids attending from 30 different countries and 15 states.
After achieving high marks and extracurriculars, Scott was accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied political science and Spanish. But here's the cool part – Scott was a member of the a capella group, the Terepegios.
“I've always loved sing,” she said. “I did choir for seven years and throughout middle school, high school and college. A capella was what I did for fun.”
For an idea of what this talented singing group is like, think a cooler version of the television series “Glee” or the movie “Pitch Perfect.” And Scott was the group's treasurer and a solo artist her senior year. The group will have an album out this summer on Spotify.
After Scott turned the tassel in May after graduation from UNC, she turned her sights eastward toward a new job and a new chapter of her life.
Edenton reminds Scott of the small town where she grew up.
“Edenton was like coming back home. When my dad (Joel) helped me move in, he said, 'Edenton looks like Franklin by the sea.' And it's true — Main Street is really, really similar,” she said.
Franklin is a place where everyone knows your name, a far different place than Chapel Hill. For Scott, Edenton reminds her a bit of home. She's even been to Vinyl Night at Edenton Bay Trading Company.
“I really like how nice everyone is,” she said. “I'm coming from Chapel Hill and it is so large. There, you can go somewhere and run into a lot of people that you know, but you can also go somewhere else and not run into anyone. In Edenton, you seem to run into people everywhere and that's actually really nice. It's really easy to feel like I know a couple of people in town. Everyone is just very kind and welcoming, so I love that. And the water is awesome. I can't believe I live right next to the water. It's totally crazy.”
As a Lead for North Carolina fellow, Scott didn't just come here to sharpen pencils at Town Hall. LFNC aims to recruit, train and place the state’s most promising young leaders in two-year paid local government fellowships.
Scott said it's nice to have a purpose — serving the people.
“Everyone I'm working with is really amazing,” she said. “And it's nice to be working on projects that I know will have an effect on the community, have a real effect on people versus being in school when you spend hours and hours and hours writing something, working on a project, it gets graded and nothing ever happens — your work doesn't mean anything. So I'm really excited to be working on projects and doing things that mean something.”
Got to give a shout out to the boss, Town Manager Anne Marie Knighton, as well as Elizabeth Bryant, town planner.
“Anne Marie and Elizabeth — they are amazing,” Scott said. “Everyone in town hall is lovely. They know exactly what they are doing. They've been really good about involving me in meeting and giving me newspaper clippings so as to get to know Edenton so as to connect me with things to do around here. Involving me in work and showing me the ropes.”
As to life in Edenton, “I feel connected — I'm really happy.”
Staff writer Miles Layton may be reached at email@example.com