Libby Kuchta is a woman with many talents.
The one we begin discussing is her art; in November, First Methodist Church suffered flooding in its nursery. The children were moved, repairs were undertaken– and Kuchta, the church’s children coordinator, became inspired.
“It needed brightness and life,” she says of the basement room.
One hundred and twenty hours of labor later (with help from Rebecca McGavock), the formerly cheerless nursery is bedecked with colorful animals depicting Noah’s Ark and the Garden of Eden. “I didn’t want to stop painting,” Kuchta says. “I loved it.”
Kuchta, who grew up in Bruce, picked up painting from her two aunts during her childhood. She took art in high school under Jean Pullen, and then went onto Belhaven College in Jackson, where she majored in history. “It wasn’t very practical,” she says. “But it was what I wanted to do.”
Kuchta emerged from college with a degree, a husband, her first child, and a career as an EMT. “I loved it, I did,” Kuchta recalls. “I never thought I’d do anything else.”
But degenerative back problems from picking up three-hundred-pound patients meant that she had to find an alternative career.
Employment took a back seat to family for a time, as the Kuchtas moved to Water Valley in 2002 and welcomed a son in 2003. “When I started to talk to telemarketers on the phone,” she says, “I knew it was time to get out of the house.” So, Kuchta took a job at Home Depot.
That job led to her current career. Libby Kuchta, who is tall, blond, a wife and a mother, spends her days selling lumber.
“I never thought I’d be doing this,” she says. “It just kind of landed in my lap. I was meant to do it.”
Lumber salesmen act as middlemen between contractors and a supply store. “I go out to the job sites and quote them prices,” she explains. “I never actually see the lumber.”
“Are there many women doing this?” I ask, and Kuchta shakes her head.
“I’m the only one in this area,” she says. “They call me Libby Lumber.”
Kuchta, who works for Murphy Frame Supply, admits that it took some time to feel comfortable in the male-dominated world of contracting.
“When I first started, contractors would ask me a question,” she recalls, “And I’d give them a twenty minute dissertation to prove I knew what they were talking about.” But she brushes away my questions about harassment; “I’ve run into some ugliness,” she says. “But I just brush it off and move on. I have too many good contractors to work with the bad ones.”
Kuchta says that one of the best parts of her job is its flexibility. Considering that she spends some of almost every day at First Methodist Church (even when she’s not painting murals), works, and takes care of two small children, she needs all the flexibility she can get – especially considering her newest role, that of spokesman for the newly formed women’s group, the Kudzu Preservation Society of Water Valley.
Kuchta describes the Society as a community-focused group who will undertake beautification efforts; “we just want to get out there in the community and do things,” she says. “I love Water Valley. It’s got class, it’s got culture, it’s got a past,” Kuchta says of her adopted hometown.
I shake my head and whistle. Mural painter, saleswoman, mother, and spokesperson– “How do you manage it all?” I ask.
Kuchta doesn’t hesitate. “I have a very supportive husband.” She smiles, acknowledging the myriad roles of her life. “I couldn’t do it without him.”