Former WSCC professor authors a fictional tale on small town politics.

July 20, 2016
Dr. Dale Sutton

Dr. Dale Sutton

#MasonCountyArts #MasonCountyPeople #CusterTownship

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

CUSTER TOWNSHIP — It’s never too late to write a book, at least that’s Dr. Dale Sutton’s philosophy. At 79-years-old, the retired West Shore Community College professor emeritus, has published his first book, a work of fiction titled “The Campaign of Cole Stevenson.”

Sutton spent over 40 years teaching biology and botany to students of all ages, including 23 years at West Shore Community College. But, his new book, available exclusively in e-edition, is more about political science rather than earth science.

“There are elements where I include botany in the book, but this is really a book about the heart and soul of a rural American town in the 1950s,” he says.

“The greatest privilege a citizen can have is the right to vote and select those who represent them. Cole’s story could have taken place in Michigan or many other states. I selected the Missouri Ozarks as the setting because that’s where I lived the first 34 years of my life. My father was a saw miller and I worked with the mill workers, log cutters, farmers and construction workers; not a day passed that I did not have sawdust on my cap and hear talk about local politics.”

Sutton says he started working on the book about three years ago. “I got to an age when I decided to drop some of the things I was doing and pick up other things. Writing is not that difficult, but it takes discipline. I would find myself sitting down to write and then look out the window and wonder if I should go out to the garden and check the tomatoes for worms. As I continue to write more, I’ve learned to stay more focused.”

The book is about Cole Stevenson, who lives in small town Missouri and comes to the conclusion that he would like to run for state representative because of the problems in his home town of Red Oak.

“There are problems in Red Oak that can be corrected only by a long term commitment,” Sutton says.

“His opponent is the four-term incumbent Lennie Midelton. Midelton is incompetent, and for eight years has escaped political, social, or personal examination.  It seems Midelton’s uniqueness is the lack of even one enviable quality.

“Cole’s campaign strategy is to gain the support of five highly respected county citizens who can easily deliver a large block of votes. For help, he turns to an old political lion, retired State Senator C.J. Russell. He also receives help from Kitty Bird, a retired English teacher and the social conscious of McClary County.

“Mrs. Anna Belle Brewster, a midwife and revered county citizen, becomes a trusted helper and Pastor Louis Hargrove gives Cole much needed support and advice.  Willard Ruble, described by his sixth grade teacher as the only student she ever had who studied a dictionary, is Cole’s link to the timber owners and saw millers in the community.  Staley Daniels, owner and editor of the Ozark Mountain Press, helps Cole to navigate the ins and outs of the public exposure his candidacy encounters.

“With his political ‘pentagon’ in place, Cole campaigns across his district. He is endorsed by some voters and skeptically questioned by others.  During his campaign, he experiences rural democracy at its very best. He meets a female student who he had classes with but never knew until his campaign started.

“His campaign comes to a conclusion in the courthouse as the votes are counted and the winner is selected.”

For the rest of the story, you’ll have to buy the book.

Sutton says the book’s characters and stories are combinations of people and events he has experienced throughout his life, non are necessarily based on one particular person or event, however.

Sutton began his teaching career at Garwood Elementary School in rural Missouri where he was the only teacher and taught all eight grades with an enrollment of 43 students. Nine of those students became teachers, principals or superintendents.

After teaching high school science for six years in Missouri, Sutton went back to graduate school and earned a master’s in science degree in biology and PhD in botany.  He was hired to teach at WSCC by Dr. John Eaton in 1970.

“Even though I started teaching when I was 23, it did not in any way diminish my relationships with the skilled workers, county officials and ‘Ozark philosophers’ I was surrounded by.  When my wife and I moved to Michigan, it was not difficult to become a part of West Shore and the people the college serves,” Sutton says.

Sutton and his wife, Rose Marie, continue to live in Custer Township south of Scottville  and spend the winter months in Ironton, where they both grew up.

    “The Campaign of Cole Stevenson” is available from in a Kindle format. Google – The Campaign of Cole Stevenson, Dale D. Sutton, and follow the instructions. For questions or comments about the book, email


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