This week, The Times asked the Alexander County Commissioner candidates to respond to an election questionnaire to give their views on issues facing that office.
Three candidates are running for the two open seats this year. The Commission is a partisan entity. The candidates are: incumbent Dr. Jeffrey P. Peal, Republican; former county commissioner and school board member Josh Lail, Republican; and Democratic candidate Rev. L. Macy Jones. Incumbent Ryan Mayberry did not seek re-election to the Alexander County Commissioners.
Question 1: What do you think county government needs to do to prepare Alexander County for the near future? How will you work to accomplish this, if elected?
Jones: I think the current county government is doing well with providing infrastructure such as water and sewer to attract businesses to the county. They are doing well with trying to get highspeed internet into the county. However, there is more work to do to help this process along. I am sure you know that there are dead zones in some of the more rural and secluded parts of the county. So, one priority would be to continue working on getting internet to ALL parts of the county.
Children attending schools in Alexander County are having difficulty connecting to the internet because they are not located near a tower or they do not have access to the internet at all. Like it or not, we live in a digital age and this county has a digital divide.
I will work with the other County Commissioners and take advantage of all opportunities to secure funding for expanding internet services in the county. I will work with them to make sure that the children and families in Alexander County are not struggling to submit school assignments, do on-line banking, register for classes, download forms, hear weather alerts or announcements from the county because they do not have the internet or they have issues with maintaining consistent connectivity.
The second thing I would like for us to do as a Board of Commissioners is offer the residents more family and recreational activities. I know people leave the county during the summer to enjoy the splash pads and pools in surrounding counties. I heard that the county is working on a splash pad, but I do not know the details and deadlines for having one in place. COVID 19 will delay some projects but now is a good time for us to continue the planning for a splash pad, pool, low level walking trails, green spaces just to relax and gather once COVID-19 is over, a place to play volleyball, soccer, paintball, a shooting range, and other outdoor activities. I’m not sure that we are ready to support larger indoor recreational businesses, but it is certainly worth investigating.
I have heard so many people say we are not Hickory, Wilkesboro, Statesville, Lenoir, Charlotte, Boone, or Raleigh. We are not. But there must be something great about these places I mentioned because Alexander County residents spend a lot of their time shopping, eating, working, and enjoying the recreational opportunities in these cities.
If Alexander County plans to remain a viable and attractive county we must learn how to move forward and embrace the good things of the 21st century and preserve the good things that make Alexander County unique.
If I am elected, I plan to continue working on improving race and human relations in this county. I would like to see more diversity in hiring qualified people of color in county positions, the school system, banks, and other places of employment to reflect the entire population. Just recently I helped Co-found the Alexander County Ministerial Alliance. The Alliance hosted a forum to discuss issues that have divided the nation, towns, and cities. We provided a place for all people to come together to pray for our nation, and this coming Sunday we are hosting a webinar to talk about race relations and learn how to understand each other. If you want to participate sign up on the Alexander County Clergy Alliance Face Book page.
Some people think everything is okay in this county, but it isn’t. Some people, not all, struggle with accepting people whose religious preferences are different from their own, who worship differently, who do not share the same morals, values, and beliefs. Some have difficulty accepting people who look differently or speak a language other than English. As a woman and person of color I am very much aware of how other people’s perceptions of me determine how they will interact with me. I understand how being different and being around people of various races and culture can cause people to be uncomfortable.
Some people are of the opinion that because I am a woman and/or a person of color that the best thing to do is not interact with me at all. I want to change this perception. I want to change it for every woman, young girl, and person of color.
Because of my love for young people and my commitment to helping them have a healthy identity I will do my best to offer forums and opportunities for them to share how they think the county should prepare for the future. They are so valuable to society and to this community.
The last time I checked the Bible it said WE, meaning ALL of us are made in God’s image. That means God is a God of Diversity. I am committed to trying to eliminate some barriers in this county that keep us divided. But we must acknowledge barriers exist, and name them before we can eliminate them. We must talk about them before we can do anything about them.
Lail: Overall, I feel Alexander County is already a wonderful place. But, there are definitely several things that need to improve and be done to prepare us for the near future. As a small rural county, revenue to pay for needed services is a challenge. I think we all agree our property tax rate is already too high. We need to come up with other ways to generate the needed revenues to pay for top quality services for our citizens. Alexander County citizens deserve great schools, the best EMS services, high quality law enforcement, good Senior Services, etc. It takes money to provide all of these things and we have to think outside the box to generate the needed revenues without using property tax rate as the answer. My business experience allows me to see the local government more as a business. If we look at our county government more like a private business there is definitely some “fat” to trim and I feel there are also means of creating revenue that have not been explored. If elected, I look forward to working with the other Commissioners to make the county more fiscally efficient from both revenue generation and spending standpoints.
Peal: Alexander County is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. We are not a Northeast community nor are we Charlotte or Huntersville. We are Alexander County. Our people enjoy our laid back rural lifestyle. We do need, however, to progress and be able to provide opportunities for meaningful employment, housing, and lifestyle. All government provisions are generated through tax dollars. We need to continue to attract all forms of new business. This increases the tax revenue which allows us to invest in our community. Property owners should never have to carry all the tax burden to fund our government. When people have jobs, they spend their money which creates businesses, which creates more jobs. The circular flow of money starts with a strong economy, jobs, and building. Infrastructure such as water, sewer, and internet are critical components of economic development and we have strived to increase capacity in all of these over the last several years. We need to keep working on these items to increase our capacity. In order to keep our bright young minds, we need to invest in items that interest them. This calls for public and private investment and we have to do our best to secure each.
We are certainly living in unprecedented times with lots of strife in our world. I think that all groups of people need to come together and build up to make our community a better place. We may or may not impact other parts of the country but we can make a difference here. We can love our neighbors and support each other. We can continue to serve those in need and provide ways for people to make a good living and be productive members of society who all contribute to the common good.
United we can stand or divided we can fall! All racial and ethnic groups can and should bond together as Americans – as Alexander Countians to make Alexander County all it can be! We were all created equal and need to be treated equal with dignity and respect.
Question 2: Why should you be elected as an Alexander County Commissioner?
Peal: As I shared in February before the primary, I love Alexander County! Thank you for electing me 4 years ago – I have done a commendable job serving as your commissioner. Together, with the County Manager and the other commissioners (TEAMWORK), we have done some really good things.
• Shell Building, business recruitment and development
• Huge infrastructure improvements with sewer and water projects
• High speed internet plan for under and not served areas
• Overhaul of DSS to better meet the needs of our neediest and most vulnerable citizens.
• New long-term leases with Duke Energy for Dusty Ridge Park and Wittenburg Access – soccer fields, multipurpose areas, new trails, additional parking, and restrooms will be added at Dusty Ridge.
• A swimming area, extended nature trails, picnic areas, restrooms, and additional parking will be added at Wittenburg Access.
• Revamped Inspections Department and now offer same day inspections along with improved customer service making contractors desire to build in the county again!
• Quite a few major projects can be seen on a list on my Facebook page – (Jeffrey P. Peal for Commissioner)
• Increased school funding
• We have over $12,000,000 in fund balance which makes us pretty stable. We have not increased taxes. I certainly hope we can continue with no increases and do not foresee any.
We have supported the school system and realize the importance of our children as they are the future. We helped fund a course at the high school which teaches public safety. Public safety is critical and many services such as firemen, first responders, Rescue Squad… are voluntary. We are attracting less and less volunteers and hope this program will create an interest in being a firefighter, first responder, etc. We have supported our fire departments in various ways to help with staffing, training, and needs to better serve our citizens.
We have raised the baseline pay for law enforcement and hope to continue working on this scale to attract and keep good officers. Many do not realize the value of our emergency service and law enforcement personnel until they need them. They are some of the most important people in our community as they regularly go above and beyond the call of duty.
People ask why do you run:
• Is it the big salary? – No, as a matter of fact, I could and did make a lot more money adjunct teaching but let that go over the last several years to have more time as a commissioner and more time with my family.
• Is it the great benefits and insurance? – No, I actually declined the insurance coverage because I already have that.
• Is it the fame? – No it is not the fame. We rarely make everyone happy but try to do the best for the most citizens with each decision.
• I take being a commissioner seriously – meetings and committees are important to me.
• I study the issues, do my homework, and prepare for meetings. I know the items on the agenda and when I cast my vote upon something, I have done my due diligence.
• I want to be your commissioner because I love serving. Giving back is part of who I am.
I am a Christian and that is important to me and I hope it is to you. My family is important to me and so is yours. I want our children and grandchildren to have a great future! Our community is important to me and I want us to have a community where families can thrive. The Peal’s chose to move to Alexander County in 2007 because it is a wonderful place and we chose to stay here. Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Many misunderstand this quote as it pertains to Biblical vision and people who do not have Biblical wisdom go aimlessly about life without restraint. There really is a leadership principle here though as well but not the Biblical intent. Without vision, without a plan, we will be in a mess. Alexander County and all other communities change and will never be exactly like we were yesterday or 10 years ago. We are not Mayberry, but we are also not Raleigh. We are Alexander County and have our own identity. Leadership and vision, however, set us on a course for what we will be and perhaps more importantly, what we won’t be. My next actions will include continued work on our comprehensive plans and some long range planning in all areas. As these long range plans are developed, we need to hear from you. Come to meetings and be involved.
Lail: My father’s favorite saying was “Service to Humanity is the Best Work of Life.” I heard him say that what seems like a million times while growing up. I feel service to my county and community is an opportunity for me to give back to the people who helped me become who I am today. As a lifelong citizen of Alexander County, I love this place and the people here. My father grew up in Bethlehem and my mother was raised in Taylorsville, so I have extended family all over the county. I truly want to see our county succeed and flourish. I am very proud of what was accomplished during my previous term on the County Commission. We were able to create jobs, expand infastructure, reduce spending in some areas, and more. But there is more to do to make Alexander County the best it can be for my family and yours.
Jones: I should be elected because of my life experiences working with diverse populations. I should be elected because I have worked at the county, state, and federal levels. That is diversity too! I have a proven record of leading others. And that leadership produced growth and change that benefited children and families over the course of my 36-year history working in Education.
I should be elected because I am knowledge about how to secure and find resources at the local, state, and federal levels. My experiences as the Head Start Director at the local level, my positions with state agencies such as the North Carolina Community Action Agency, Wake County Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, the Fuquay-Varina Early Learning Center and the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education, and the Region IV T &TA Network at the federal level give me a perspective that some may not have. In these positions I had to learn to work collaboratively with contractors, lay people, faith-based groups, government officials, federal employees, and state employees from different state offices. In my previous positions I had access to state data bases and had to receive clearance from the federal government to access federal data bases. My experiences are vast. My experiences cause me to look at a situation from multiple perspectives and decide what will work best for to reach the intended goal and outcome.
I should be elected because I am willing to have a civil conversation with any resident of this county and listen to their concerns and opinions about this county. I will ask them to help the County Commissioners work on helping spur growth in the county and addressing needs. We must work together for the good of the county. I do not have all the answers. If you know how to write a grant, the Board of Commissioners will need your help. If you are retired and or have the time to serve as a Board member for a county agency, we need your help. I encourage residents to find their place and get to work bettering the community.
You should elect me because I want to bring energy into the community that will spark growth. Growth that will attract more people, increase diversity, boost the economy, and sustain the vitality or life of Alexander County.
I want to see the place where I was born and raised prosper, and flourish in the 21st century and centuries to come. I want my daughter to consider moving back here to live just like many of you want your children to move home or remain at home. If that is going to happen, we have to offer them reasons to return.
We have to offer them vibrant communities that will meet all their needs. I see potential for a variety of growth in our county. If we grow economically, offer more quality of life opportunities and become competitive with other counties regarding what we have to offer here, people will want to move here, stay here, or return here after they retire or graduate from college.
Another reason you should elect me is because education is important to me. I am a product of the Alexander County School system. When I was growing up, we had teacher assistants in almost every classroom. I know that cuts to state funding is the primary reason we cannot have a teacher assistant in every room, but I think the county can do more to help the school system secure additional teacher assistants. Schools are going to need them when children return to school full time. Teacher Assistants are scarce. However, they are crucial for helping meet the needs in classrooms. If people do not understand the value of teachers, administrators, teacher assistants, custodians, nurses, and social workers and all other support personnel now, they never will! COVID 19 changed the game and the rules for everyone, not just school systems.
I’m just saying that teachers have one set of eyes. Support personnel cannot be everywhere at the same time. When children return to school for face to face instruction the teachers are going to need some help. I think the county should offer more financial assistance to the school system to help make sure children are in the safest settings as possible.
Let me be clear. The programs that I direct will not benefit from additional funding because I have secured enough federal and state funding through grants to provide three people in all Head Start and NC Pre K classrooms. I do not need the funding for Head Start or NC Pre K. But I WILL advocate for my colleagues to have what they need to take care of the YOUR children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to make sure everyone is working and learning in the safest settings.
I should be your next County Commissioner because I am a visionary. When I see a need I begin working on a plan to address the need. Three years ago, I saw the need for a Comprehensive Community Assessment. Several agencies in the community did annual reports and needs assessment but the reports and assessment reports did not include all the components and data that I needed to write grants.
I called some community leaders together to discuss how we could collaborate and pool our financial resources together to create a comprehensive assessment. As a result of the meeting two agencies, Alexander County Head Start and The Enola Group Early Head Start and Head Start program shared the cost of having a professional consulting company create a 119 page document called the 2020 Community Assessment: The Enola Group & Alexander County Head Start.
This assessment will help both agencies develop program goals and strategies for reaching the goals for the next five years. This is one recent example of how I can mobilize people to action and collaborate with people to produce an important and useful document to move Alexander County Forward.
I need to be your next County Commissioner because we need to address the homeless population in the county as well as families living in life threatening situations due to domestic violence. Both exist in the county. I will find out what we need to do to start the process of securing suitable land that will accommodate tiny homes. I will see if there are contractors willing to commit to building one tiny home each. I will use my experience of working with contractors, building inspectors, fire marshals, and environmental health to make sure everything is up to code.
I will work with the faith-based community to secure funding to furnish the homes. I will work with local employers to see if they are willing to offer employment to our homeless people. We can work together as a community to make sure people who may be dealing with substance abuse or mental illness receive the treatment, they need so they can get a job and keep it! There is so much to do in this county. I believe it can be done but I will need your help.
In closing I will leave you with this quote from Cesar Chavez a community organizer, businessman and Latino civil rights activist. He said “we cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambition must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others for their sake and for our own.”
My website is http://www.jones4cmmissioner.org. My Facebook Page is “Elect Macy Jones for Alexander County Commissioner.”
Community: Taylorsville, Rocky Springs Community.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Gardner Webb University (1998), Master of Science in Family and Consumer Science from North Carolina Central University (2001), Master of Divinity from Shaw University Divinity School, 2010, Doctoral studies at Life Christian University. Head Start Director from 1998-2001 and 2012 to the present. I have a total of 25 years working with Alexander County Head Start. Was first State Manager of Region IV Head Start Training and Technical Assistance Network (2005-2010).
Occupation: Head Start Director, Alexander Co.
Family: My parents are the late Ed & Louise Jones. I have one daughter, Morgan Parsons of Raleigh, NC. My siblings are Angel Brown, Martha Jones, Brenda Parson, Loretta Boston, and Gail Harbison.
I serve as the Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the NC Head Start Association. In this role I work closely with the President of the NC Head Start Association and the Operations Manager of the NC Head Start Association. Together we inform the Head Start and Early Head Start programs in North Carolina about the latest childcare trends, laws that may affect childcare and any proposed legislation that is up for a vote.
For three years I served as the State Captain for the Fall & Winter National Head Start Leadership Institutes. In this role I coordinated Congressional visits to Capitol Hill with members of the House and Senate. I helped anywhere from 3-15 people set up meetings with their congressional representatives or aides.
Affiliations: Member of Macedonia Baptist Church – Hwy. 90 East, volunteer with The Mobile Café, member and Chaplain for the Alexander County NAACP, serve on the Board of Directors of the Consolidated Community Services Advisory Board, member of the Local Interagency Coordinating Council, member of the Board of Directors for the Partnership for Children, United Way President, Co-Founder of The Alexander County Clergy Alliance.
I was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Leadership NC Institute last year. It was an honor to be chosen because Alexander County is one of three counties that has not had anyone participate in the program. The purpose of Leadership NC is to inform, develop and engage committed leaders by broadening their understanding of and involvement in issues and opportunities facing the state. The program has five primary focus areas. They are Health & Human Services, Government, Education, Economic Development, Environment. Unfortunately, I had to decline the opportunity, but I am looking forward to applying for the program again soon.
My latest award was totally unexpected. I received the Paper Plate Award from the National Head Start Association at the 2018 Winter Leadership Institute. The awards ceremony was held in one of the Congressional office buildings and several Congressional Representatives attended the Institute to meet and greet over 1600 Head Start employees from across the nation.
I, along with another Head Start Director from the Western part of the State were recognized for the work we did with Congresswoman Virginia Foxx who at that time was the Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
I returned to Alexander County in 2012. That same year the State of NC cut the number of NC Pre K slots in Alexander County. Prior to the cut we served 70 children. After the cut we were awarded funds for a classroom of 18 children. The program has continued to grow, and we have 45 NC Pre K children. The Head Start budget has also seen growth the last 8 years. I have written a lot of grants in 8 years. Some the program received and some we did not. The Head Start budget increased from $944,180 in 2012 to $1,614,054 in 2020. The Head Start budget and the NC Pre K budget combined are $1.906,054. That is close to 2 million dollars. The budget has almost doubled under my time here. The $1,614,054 does not include the $579,453 for 6 new buses.
When I returned in 2012 the program was using buses from the 1990’s as backup and others from the mid 2000’s to transport children. We spent a lot of money on repairs. I submitted one grant and did not receive the buses. I submitted the second one and we received 6 brand new 2019 Mino-tour buses and replaced the whole fleet. We also replaced the old program vehicles with new vehicles. All three vehicles were from the late 80’s or early 90’s.
Other things that I have accomplished, participated in or lead:
• Received the D.O.V.E. Award from the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated in 2018 for service to the people of Alexander County
• Received 2003 Employee of the Year Award from Chapel Hill Training Outreach Inc. for outstanding services to children and families at the Fuquay-Varina Early Learning Center in Fuquay-Varina, NC.
• I helped plan the National Smart Start Conference for three years.
• I was part of a five-member team that provided intensive technical assistance to a Head Start program that was at risk of losing their grant. We helped the program reorganize and keep the program that year.
• Led the first team in Region IV in developing and implementing a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) for an at-risk grantee. This led to the program being removed from deficient status by the Office of Head Start
• Early in my career with Head Start I secured in kind contributions of $7000 from community and private donors to offset program health care services to children without health and dental insurance. This was before Medicaid was available to so many families and private insurance would not pay for dental services.
• Participated in the Leadership Alexander Class of 2000 for demonstrating dedication and leadership ability in Alexander County
• Secured State and private Inkind contributions of $100,000.00 to assist with storm relief in eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Irene and helped secure 7 million dollars in state and federal funding to help survivors rebuild or renovate their homes.
• I’ve lead Family Engagement and Human Relations trainings around the nation.
Trainings & Certifications:
• The North Carolina Head Start Association
• The Georgia Head Start Leadership Conference
• Miami Dade Head Start Pre Service Conference
• The North Carolina Cluster B Head Start Conference
• The Region IV Head Start Conference
• The Alexander County Partnership for Children Training Conference
• The North Carolina Community Action Agency Conference
• Certified Trainer of The Poverty Simulation Experience
• Certified Trainer of the Safe Families, Safe Homes Domestic Violence Model
• Trainer at the National Head Start Conference
• Certified by FEMA to assist during national disasters
• Course facilitator for the NC Community Action Agency.
Education: ACHS, 1995 graduate; Bachelors of Science in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina and Gardner-Webb University, 1999.
Occupation: Owner and General Contractor of Josh Lail & Co., LLC; owner and broker in charge of RE/MAX Traditions.
Family: Wife: Mollie Boan Lail; children: Hannah (18), Haley (16), Lizzie (11), Lawson (10), Grant (4), and Barrett Lail (2).
Political experience: Alexander County Board of Education 2004-2012; Alexander County Commission, 2014-2018; Western Piedmont Council of Governments Policy Board, 2017-2018.
Affiliations: Member and small group leader at Bethlehem Baptist Church; Recreation: baseball, tee ball, and soccer coach; member of the National Association of Homebuilders; member of the National Assoc. of REALTORS.
Awards/achievements: Greatest achievement: getting to be Dad to our six children; awarded a Key to the County for past serve on the County Commission.
Education: Doctorate in Educational Leadership – Masters in School Administration – Bachelors in Social Studies.
Occupation: Principal, Millersville Christian Academy – retired public school administrator.
Family: Happily married to Renee Peal for over 30 years. Daughter, Savannah and husband Ryan Wilson. They have 3 children; Ivy, Grant, and Hudson. Daughter, Baylee and fiancée Seth Sigmon. Son, Elijah.
Political experience: Currently serving my first term as commissioner as I was elected in 2016.
Affiliations: I am a member of Sulphur Springs Baptist Church where I serve as a Deacon and Sunday School teacher and have served on many other committees and other roles. I have served and currently serve on many community affiliated groups such as: Formerly served on Red Cross Advisory Board – Alexander County; Former Red Cross Board of Directors – Catawba Valley; Former Member Taylorsville Rotary; Alex. Co. Commissioners Task Force; Former United Way – Board of Directors, Vice President, President and Past President – Alex. Co.; Former member of Alex. Co. Personnel Association; Former Deacon and Sunday School Director, Sunday School teacher – Peace Haven Baptist Church – North Wilkesboro, NC; Former Homegrown Teaching Fellows Scholarship Committee – Catawba Valley Community College; CVCC Alexander Center Advisory Board; Former Domestic Violence Resource Center Board of Directors Vice Chairman and Chairman – Alex. Co.; Former Alex. Co. Partnership for Children Board of Directors; Former Alex. Co. Head Start Policy Council member; Alex. Co. Ag Extension Advisory Board, former Chairman; Former member – Beginning Teacher Support Network, Appalachian State University; Former member – North Carolina Middle School Association Region Seven Advisory Board; Alex. Co. Commissioner’s Veteran’s Committee; Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), Alex. Co.; Alexander County Department of Social Services Board; Alex. Co. Library Board; Former Alex. Co. Budget Committee Chairman; Former Ellendale Recreation, Board Member; Alexander County Youth Sports Coach – Baseball, Football, Softball, Wrestling; Elected as a County Commissioner in November of 2016 – Chairman 2018.
Awards/achievements: I have been blessed beyond recognition in many ways. My greatest award would have to be Jesus and a wonderful family along with many friends and a great community to live in and serve.