Name as it appears on the ballot: Greg Ford
Campaign website: www.GregFord.com
Phone number: 919-218-0378
Years lived in Wake County: 19
In your view, what are the three most pressing issues Wake County faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?
Economic Development. As we continue to grow, Wake County needs to remain competitive in attracting and retaining businesses and a talented workforce. A large part of this comes from ensuring that we are addressing infrastructure needs in order to accommodate growth. It also means ensuring Wake County offers incentives that stimulate economic expansion.
If elected, I will support the continuation of Wake’s competitive business development grants; water and sewer grants; in-kind resources; and providing businesses with workforce development and training support in partnership with Wake Tech and our local universities. I will encourage increased collaboration among Wake Economic Development, our local chambers of commerce, municipal incentive programs, and state-level programs – such as the One North Carolina Fund and the NC Job Development Investment Grant – to ensure that we are all working together toward the same goals. I will also encourage collaboration with our neighboring counties in branding our region as a hotbed for entrepreneurial growth and as a center for emerging industries like cleantech, life sciences, IT/Tech and advanced manufacturing.
Infrastructure. In order to ensure that our quality of life improves for all citizens now and into the future, we need to make sure we continue to support our public schools through increased funding beyond simply keeping up with growth; that we are ensuring public safety by ensuring our county staff are paid fairly and equipped to get the job done; that we are providing much-needed health and human services for our population by expanding patient care facilities and substance abuse programs; that we pass and implement the Wake Transit Plan to provide more options for people and help guide future growth; that we ensure water security for future generations through sourcing and conservation efforts; and that we are expanding environmental protections by expanding county inspections staff and preserving open spaces.
These are values that we all can support, and the Board of Commissioners has established clear goals and outcomes to address them. I will work to help us achieve them by focusing on action steps, keeping to timelines and ensuring measurable outcomes so the public can monitor our progress.
Supporting Vulnerable Populations. The first responsibility of government should be to provide for the safety and security of the people it serves. As a principal and teacher in Wake County schools for over 18 years, I worked to garner resources and provide support systems for many children and families who are struggling in our community.
Wake County’s most vulnerable citizens are suffering from generational or situational poverty, unemployment, homelessness, food scarcity, lack of affordable housing, and/or mental health and substance abuse issues. Progress is already underway in addressing these issues – as evidenced by promising trend data aligned with the Board’s goals and annual budget allocations – but there is more work to be done as we focus on solutions that are most impactful.
Specifically, I will continue to support the expansion of early childhood education programs like Smart Start, which serves children from a proportionally larger segment of lower income families. I will also support expanding county-provided prenatal care services.
We need to work with our Board of Education and identify ways to incentivize and reward community-based partnerships and mentoring programs that address the school-to-prison pipeline. We need to make sure our county-funded social workers and nurses have reasonable caseloads so relationships with clients are most productive. There are many other action steps in this area, and those are just a few examples.
Wake County’s growth has been rapid and promises to continue into the coming decades. What have been the county’s successes in managing this growth? Its failures? What would you do differently?
The best evidence that Wake County has been successful in managing growth overall is the fact that more and more people are calling Wake County home every day. This is the result of planning, foresight and coordinated efforts over time. Some of our greatest successes include our robust local economy, our strong school system, and our amazing parks and greenway system.
Some areas that need additional attention include implementing a viable transit plan (long overdue, but now in progress); addressing serious poverty issues; addressing Wake’s mental health crisis; improving turnover rates of public services staff with better compensation (teachers, support staff, public safety officers, etc.); environmental protections and ensuring water quality and availability into the future.
How would your experience―in politics or otherwise in your career―make you an asset to the county’s decision-making process? Be specific about how this experience would relate to your prospective office.
My entire career has been in public service in Wake County schools as a principal and teacher for over 18 years, and I have had success in building meaningful and productive relationships and partnerships among our community groups, businesses, institutions of higher ed, civic leaders and citizens over that time. I am skilled at bringing people together to achieve common goals based on shared values, aiming for win-win solutions whenever possible.
Most educators I know are optimists by nature, and like them I see challenges as opportunities for innovation, creativity and progress. I learned long ago to seek input from all stakeholders before focusing on solutions, and know the value of including them in the outcome whenever possible. I know what it means to be held in the public trust with our community’s children – and with our taxpayer dollars, and I take that responsibility very seriously both professionally and personally.
Wake County has also been my home for nearly two decades, and it will continue to be for many years to come. Our family has three children, all of whom are enrolled in Wake County Schools: our son Jonathan is a freshman at Millbrook High School, and our twin daughters Brooke & Chloe are in Kindergarten at Brassfield Road Elementary School. Our kids keep us grounded and further invest us in the future of our community.
My husband, Anthony, serves as Chief Operating Officer for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, a large nonprofit based in Chapel Hill – where he also serves as chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. He is a former chair of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce as well. With his work and my candidacy for Wake County Commissioner, we often meet with Triangle leaders to talk about regional issues like water, transit, and economic development. Those relationships, brainstorms and sharing of best practices help inform my view of the bigger picture – and how programs and policies need to be truly impactful for our citizens.
The Wake County transit referendum is a huge issue in the November election. Do you support the transit referendum? If so, why? If not, what would you do instead to ensure we have a functioning transportation system?
I support the Wake Transit Plan as an investment in the prosperity of our region that will improve the quality of life for Wake County citizens. Resulting from broad, bipartisan support from across our community, the Plan provides needed transit options for people as we continue to grow as a region. The Plan is key to positioning our region as a modern, forward-thinking community that is serious about recruiting and retaining more businesses, employees and their families.
Traffic congestion, commute times and parking issues will improve as the Plan expands citizens’ transit options in getting to work, homes, shopping centers, parks, greenways, houses of worship, education and healthcare venues. The Plan will also encourage future walkable and sustainable development along transit corridors, and it has built-in opportunities for scaling service as demand increases.
I will be voting Yes for the half-cent sales tax referendum because I believe that a locally-controlled, voter-approved funding source is in the best interest of Wake County taxpayers. The sales tax option ensures that transit users who live outside of Wake County will help pay for the system they are using. Federal and state funding, as well as vehicle registration fees and fares generated by ridership will pay for the rest.
What should be the county’s role in addressing issues of economic inequality, such as gentrification? Do you believe the current board is doing enough to help its municipalities manage Wake County’s growth in order to prevent current residents from being priced out?
I would like to see the Wake County Planning Department expanded to help our municipalities work toward solutions resulting from our impressive growth rate. The unincorporated areas of the county have zoning concerns that need to be addressed as we plan for growth and infrastructure needs, such as transit corridors and future school sites.
Wake County also has a responsibility to address affordable housing needs, which I expand on below.
As a related question: Commissioner Jessica Holmes has proposed using currently unused school land to build affordable housing. Do you support this idea? Why or why not? Given state law constraints on rent control, what can the county do to keep housing affordable?
Innovative solutions rarely come from following existing patterns, and we need creative solutions to complex issues like affordable housing. I support the idea of exploring all options – including Commissioner Holmes’ proposal – as we work to meet the housing needs of especially our more vulnerable citizens. Because home affordability is a function of home size, density bonuses that encourage developers to build more housing with lower square footage – especially along proposed transit corridors – is another example of an ideas worth exploring. The Wake County Housing Authority also has a large role in this issue, along with community groups and municipalities, and I would like to see their continued leadership in this area.
How would you describe yourself politically? How would your political views influence you as a member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners?
I am a Progressive. Progressivism is based on the idea that human progress comes from making prudent investments in people and social programs, by promoting economic development, enhancing infrastructure, and supporting the advancement of public health through social programs, science and technology. The goal is to improve the quality of life for all citizens. The key is listening to people and working toward solutions, not partisan political gain. I will always seek to understand how decisions made by the Board affect people, and how we can improve on what we’re doing to enhance the lives of all Wake County citizens.
The controversial redistricting of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, as well as the school board, was struck down by a federal court in July. Do you believe the power of redistricting should be left with the county? Should redistricting be independent or nonpartisan? Why or why not?
I support the redistricting of our state and local election districts by a nonpartisan body. Both major political parties are responsible for a long tradition of gerrymandering districts in order to engineer election outcomes, and we must lead on this issue in order to restore faith in our political process by promoting the values of trust, transparency and compromise.
Do you approve of the job that the current Board of Commissioners and county staff is doing? What would you change about it? What do you think it does well?
Our current Board of Commissioners is making great progress in so many areas, and Wake County continues to be a draw for businesses, talent and families to live, work and play. In 2014, the voters sent a very clear message that they wanted the Board of Commissioners to move in a different direction. Since then, the Board has been very purposeful and successful in making gains in addressing the needs of Wake County citizens amidst great growth. A look at the current fiscal year budget shows solid investments in our school system, public safety, health and human services, planning and infrastructure needs.
We have a fantastic county manager who listens to the Board and works closely with the community. I look forward to working alongside our county staff to continue the progress we’ve made in the past two years.
In the past few years, counties have had to pick up the slack for funding. Do you believe this is appropriate? How would you continue to make sure the county’s schools, teachers, and students are provided adequate funding?
As an elementary and middle school principal in Wake County, I have firsthand experience in knowing what does and doesn’t happen with students learning experiences, recruiting and retaining teachers and staff, and maintaining quality programs and facilities when the per-student funding from the state is lower than it is since before the recession. Our state legislature needs to do its job to ensure that all students are getting the sound, basic and high-quality education they need and deserve in order to be successful in the future. By statute, the Board of Commissioners provides approximately 29% of the funding for our school system. Over the past two years, the Board has increased local funding by an astounding 20%. I will continue to support this trend.
It’s also important that we elect and support state legislators and a governor that value public education beyond hollow talking points.
Identify a principled stance you would willing to take, even if it meant risking re-election the next time you were up for it.
I will always take a stand against discrimination in any form. HB2 is certainly bad for Wake County and North Carolina’s economy, reputation and overall progress. But we must also remember that HB2 eliminated local protections against discrimination towards LGBTQ people, including Wake County’s ordinance. I will continue to speak out against this hateful law not just because I am a gay person, but because it sends dangerous messages to our children, my children, our community, and our country. Beyond the economic consequences, this is about valuing and respecting the dignity and diversity of all people, which I believe gives us strength as a community. I don’t believe the people of Wake County share the sentiments inherent in that discriminatory legislation. That’s one of the reasons why I moved to here nearly 20 years ago, and I will continue to speak out for its repeal despite the political consequences.
North Carolina is a “Dillon Rule” state, meaning that the only powers municipal and county governments have are the ones granted to them by the legislature. Would you like to see this changed? How would you work with state legislators from Wake County, as well as mayors and council members from the city’s municipalities, to ensure that Wake County, its municipalities, and the state are on the same page regarding policies that affect residents of Wake?
We remain a nation of laws, and I respect our state’s constitution as written. I do believe, however, that local control of counties and municipalities is a value we need to reinforce. Our current legislature’s habit of intervening in local affairs that are not of statewide concern – such as targeting a specific county or city for redistricting, or passing a law in special session to negate a local municipal ordinance – erodes the people’s trust and faith in our system of government.
The voters of our state share responsibility in making sure we are electing representatives that listen to the people they serve and reflect the values that make our region a great place to live, work and play. By building meaningful relationships with elected officials, and truly listening to all sides of an issue without a partisan ear, we can make a lot more progress by working together towards common goals than we can individually.
What current or former member of the Board of Commissioners do you most admire? Why?
I truly respect each Commissioner’s unique set of skills and perspective that she or he brings to the job, and many have been very supportive of my campaign. Commissioner Betty Lou Ward earns especially high praise, though. Not only do I consider her a friend and mentor, I admire her persistent advocacy for what she believes is right – especially during the years she was in the Board’s minority. Betty Lou has built a vast network of meaningful relationships across our county, and because of them never loses focus that she’s working to make things better for people. I shared that mindset as a school principal and teacher, and her example will keep me focused and humble if I’m elected to her seat on the Board of Commissioners.
The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I define a just community as one that is focused on improving the lives of all citizens, including our most vulnerable populations. Our community is thriving because of the connectivity between supporting our school system and how that enhances economic development; how investing in health and human services helps us meet increasing needs in mental healthcare and how that impacts criminal justice reform; how efforts to address poverty can enhance economic vitality and the overall wellbeing of all Wake County citizens.
The key to helping build a just community is listening to people and bringing them together to solve problems collaboratively. I believe my experience in public service in Wake County for nearly two decades will help contribute to our progress as a community moving forward.