Barry Jacobs unexpectedly withdrew from the Orange County Board of Commissioners race on Feb. 23.
“I had a gut reaction that it was time to do it,” Jacobs said. “I’m usually a person that operates based on careful thought, so when I had a strong emotional reaction, I was fascinated. I thought maybe I should listen. I enjoy the work, but I want to do some other things while I’m still on as opposed to under the planet.”
Jacobs has served on the Orange County Board of Commissioners for the last 20 years working to protect open spaces, preserve agriculture and build up municipalities. He said he has had a mission to make government an institution that helps people achieve change, rather than tell them what they can’t do.
The Orange County Agricultural summit was proposed by Jacobs, and to this day promotes local agricultural economics. He considers his work on the Lands Legacy Program, which protects natural areas in the county, as one of his crowning achievements during his time on the board.
Jacobs isn't sure about his future plans, but he knows it'll involve writing. He currently writes a weekly sports column for the News & Observer and has had several books published. In the future, he would like to experiment with fiction.
“I’m getting responses from people who I didn’t even know were paying attention,” he said. “It’s gratifying, as it makes me realize I was doing something people appreciated. There is no greater honor than being asked to serve the public.”
Sally Greene and Brian Crawford are now competing for Jacobs' at-large seat on the Board.
Greene, who filed for election on the same day Jacobs pulled out, is an attorney at BalBrenner and has previously served on the Chapel Hill Town Council. During her time as a council member, she helped create Orange County’s partnership to end homelessness, negotiated 140 West Franklin's downtown revitalization project and advocated the Chapel Hill Cultural Arts Plan.
Her opponent, Crawford, currently works as an attorney at Sanford Holshouser LLP, as well as the managing director for Carter Community Charter School. He has held leadership positions on the Affordable Housing Advisory Board, the Orange County Planning Board and the N.C. Community Development Initiative.
“I want to look out for what’s best for our citizens,” Crawford said. “I really believe we have to be more in-tune to what our citizens are saying and what they think is important, and put citizens first.”
Crawford plans to address the need for more affordable housing for all income levels, especially professionals. He wants to re-prioritize how the county is spending its money, with a greater emphasis on supporting schools instead of the light-rail project. He also wants to minimize the toxicity between Republicans and Democrats by offering them a nonjudgmental representative to express their concerns to.
"I think the well-to-do in our area are doing fine, but we have a serious issue with the wealth gap being generated in this county," Crawford said. "I want to make sure that those who feel a little left out, that they have an advocate — and I’m going to be that advocate.”
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