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The Small Business Owner: Earleton's Camille Huie Longs For A Less Divided Country

Camille Huie, a 60-year old antique shop-owner, runs the only privately-owned business in the Earleton. (Jacob Berkowitz/WUFT News)
Camille Huie, a 60-year old antique shop-owner, runs the only privately-owned business in the Earleton. (Jacob Berkowitz/WUFT News)

Camille Huie walks briskly through the organized chaos of her antique shop, Camellia Antiques. She fusses with a row of porcelain bowls, now perfectly displayed.

Camille is a 60-year-old mother of three and constantly on the move. She has an estate sale to set up later, her second business, and has little time to lose at the shop.

Artwork, classic posters and shelves lined with knick-knacks plaster the walls. Fine china, jewelry and silverware adorn vintage tables and old-fashioned furniture. The unblinking eyes of dozens of dolls watch over Camille as she toils through the shop. 

Situated between a cattle farm and a post office, the small shop, formerly a pizza parlor, is the only privately-owned business in Earleton – at least the only business that isn’t a farm. Lack of civilization aside, Camille loves living in the quaint, quiet lakeside town; the people are friendly, the lake is beautiful, and her business is doing well.

Like many rural towns, the people of Earleton consider themselves conservative. Of the 318 registered voters in Earleton, 139 are Republican and 124 are Democrats, according to Alachua County Supervisor of Elections. The rest are unaffiliated or independent.

Although a registered Democrat, don’t count Camille to always check a blue box.

“I’ve always kind of answered to my own spirit and what felt right to me,” she says.

And, right now, Camille doesn’t feel right about the way President Donald Trump and the Republican leadership have run the country the past two years.

"I'm 60 years old, and this is the first time I ever remember it being this intensely divided, " she says. 

As a former teacher and single mother, she believes compassion and kindness need to be emphasized at the highest levels of government. In her opinion, that hasn’t happened under the current leadership. 

I'm 60 years old, and this is the first time I ever remember it being this intensely divided.

"I wish that Trump and some of the higher-ups would try to embrace more of a compassionate, inclusive sort of mindset instead of saying things that are inappropriate or divisive."

“Bark less, wag more,” is her favorite way to describe the current political climate. This mid-term election cycle, Camille believes Democrats have been wagging, while Republicans have been doing the barking.

Camille has always voted for candidates based on the content of their character and has voted for Republicans in the past, but she said she’ll mostly lean left this year.

Her political opinions are not informed by her business, but her convictions.

"She's very easy going, but she knows what she wants," said Jane Brasington, Camille's friend who helps out in the antique shop and at estate sales.

Jane is a former English teacher with decades of teaching experience and has known Camille for the last 15 years. She and Camille get along so well in part because of their philosophical agreements.

Undeterred by their conservative surroundings, Camille and Jane have confidence that left-leaning voters in their community will help elect candidates that will put the country on what they believe is the right path. 

"We're a little, mighty, silent army ourselves," Camille says.

Camille knows it won't be an easy fix and she thinks it will take time to repair the current state of political discourse, but she’s cautiously optimistic that things will begin to change starting November 6.

One change she hopes for is increased funding for public schools. Camille graduated from the University of Florida in 1981 with a degree in physical education and a concentration in elementary education and had a 20-year career as a teacher.

"We don't need to be building up arms and guns or any of that business," she says. "We need to be thinking about the importance of education and making sure healthcare is available to everyone in our country that needs it."

“In our world, we need to share and be kind to one another. There is enough to go around."

Camille is also concerned about Republican politicians who want to cut entitlement programs because people abuse the system. She believes cases like that are an extreme minority. 

She says social programs primarily benefit desperate people in need of help, like single mothers. Her three children are grown now, but Camille she struggled to support them in the past. She never received public assistance, but is empathetic to those who need it to put food on the table.

“In our world, we need to share and be kind to one another," she says. "There is enough to go around."

This sentiment is consistent with who she is as a person, says Kent Walker, Camille's 28-year-old and youngest son. One of the first lessons he and his two older brothers were taught was the importance of sharing.

Another was dedication. Throughout his life, Kent remembers his mom's dedication to everything she pursued, be it political involvement, her job or being a mother.

"She's the type of person that always puts 100 percent of her effort into what she's focused on," he says. "When she had us, she was extremely focused on being the best mother she could be. That's very much her character."

Now that Kent and his two brothers are out of the house, Camille turned her focus to her businesses.

After closing up the antique shop, Camille hops in her truck and heads to the estate sale on the other side of town.

The interior of the lake-side house is in pristine condition. All of the items for sale are neat, meticulously organized and price-labeled, but the house is far from ready in Camille's eyes.

She stops momentarily from setting up the sale to look out over Lake Santa Fe. It reminds her of her own lakeside sanctuary.

Her favorite pastime is watching the sunset from her yard with a warm beverage or cold beer in hand, her two dogs and three chickens at her side.

It's in these moments, it’s easy to think the world will change for the better with a little more wagging. 

Jacob is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.