Updated Oct. 1 at 3:13 p.m. to include video.
Republicans Bill Lashley Jr., John Paisley Jr. and Pamela Thompson will battle three Democratic candidates in the November general election for three open seats on the Alamance County Board of Commissioners.
The Board of Commissioners is composed of five elected officials who serve as the governing body of Alamance County. Board members serve four-year terms, and elections for the board are held every even-numbered year.
This year’s election features three Democratic and three Republican candidates. The three candidates with the most votes will each receive a seat on the board.
Partisan primary elections were held in March. Among the seven Republican contenders, the three with the most votes moved on to the general election. In the Republican primary, Lashley received 21.12% of the vote, followed by Paisley with 19.46% and Thompson with 16.8%.
They will now fight to fill three vacancies left by three retiring board members, all of whom are Republicans.
Video by Ellis Chandler
Bill Lashley Jr.
If elected, Bill Lashley Jr. believes his background in finance and economics would be a valuable attribute to the Alamance County Board of Commissioners.
An Alamance County native, Lashley is also the son of current County Commissioner Bill Lashley Sr., whose term expires this year.
The younger Lashley said he will use his economic experience to aid the county commissioners in fulfilling their financial obligations. Those obligations include adopting an annual budget and setting the county tax rate.
“This particular year,” Lashley said, “I think we're going to have some difficulties meeting our financial obligations as far as budgets are concerned. And I think that if we're not careful, taxes could get out of control quickly.”
If elected, Lashley said he will strive to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and limiting taxes will be his top priority.
“I'm a big proponent of making sure that you control your finances,” he said. “That's the thing that can give you a strong foundation or make you a very weak individual ... If you don't take care of your finances, bad, bad things can end up happening.”
Lashley referenced the county’s plans to build a new high school as part of the Alamance-Burlington School System. Lashley emphasized the importance of financing the new high school and maintaining the infrastructure of current school buildings while not placing the burden on taxpayers.
“I'm a product of public education,” Lashley said. “If we are going to give children the tools that they need to build a strong foundation for their life, we need to do that. Someone did it for me. And I believe it's my job to do it for others.”
Also important to Lashley is the safe reopening of North Carolina’s economy. He acknowledged the inherent risk of the coronavirus, but he opposes a mandatory shut down.
“I'm a firm believer in individual rights,” he said. “I believe that you, as an individual, should be able to make that decision. You shouldn't have the government dictating to you how you're going to live your life.”
Lashley believes that confusion surrounding the safety of face masks has caused unnecessary anxiety.
“There's risk in life every day,” he said. “This is actually just one part of the risk that you take every day, as you get up. And I think we should reopen North Carolina.”
Lashley also shared his views on two controversial topics within Alamance County: prison and bail reform and the Confederate monument that sits outside of Graham’s historic courthouse.
Lashley is a vocal supporter of local law enforcement and a challenger of prison and bail reform. He said his opposition to bail reform stems from personal experience seeing crime rates rise in New York City.
“I lived in New York City when they did bail reform,” he said. “And I saw great neighborhoods turn to garbage overnight. You have to hold people accountable for their actions.”
Lashley also hopes the controversy surrounding Graham’s Confederate statue can be put to rest without its removal.
“My personal opinion about the monument is it's an inanimate object that has no bearing whatsoever on your life,” he said. “That statue could stand there, stand anywhere, and not get in your way of the things that you want to do in your life.”
John Paisley Jr.
John Paisley Jr.’s ties to Alamance County run deep. Paisley, also an Alamance County native, graduated from Elon University in 1970, and after earning his Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest University in 1973, returned to Graham to practice law.
Paisley has worked as an attorney in Alamance County for 46 years and hopes to further serve the community if elected to the board of commissioners.
Paisley said his biggest priority is representing the population of Alamance County.
“I don't care what your background is or any other matter,” Paisley said. “I will represent all of Alamance County.”
Paisley has previously served as president of the Alamance County Bar Association and chairman of the Alamance County Board of Elections, and he believes his prior experience demonstrates his commitment to the public interest.
Among the issues Paisley believes are most relevant to the community are reopening North Carolina’s economy and improving the Alamance-Burlington School System.
“I think the largest issue for the state of North Carolina is getting the economy going again,” he said. “Opening back up, hopefully having very, very soon a vaccine or some way to protect all of our citizens.”
Safety, according to Paisley, will always be a primary concern.
These reopenings also include the Alamance-Burlington School System, which Paisley said he and his wife, a former teacher, have long advocated for. Paisley has served various roles on the PTA and said he saw local schools suffer when Alamance and Burlington merged their school systems.
“Taxes went up dramatically for the school system, and the school testing ratios and all sorts of monitoring went down dramatically,” said Paisley. “But thank goodness we're trying to now improve those test scores and what's going on in the school system.”
He has four children, all of whom graduated from Burlington City and Alamance County schools.
“Regrettably, they were not Elon students,” he said. “But having said that, they've all done very well, thanks in large part to the Alamance-Burlington School System.”
Paisley also praised President Donald Trump for his efforts regarding prison reform, and he shared his support of Graham’s Confederate monument.
Paisley’s law office overlooks Court Square where the statue sits, and he has witnessed a number of peaceful protests over the monument.
Paisley said he views the monument as a piece of history, and he regrets that members of the community view it as an offensive symbol.
“To me, that does not represent slavery,” he said. “It does not represent pro-advocacy for anything, states rights or anything else. It represents some kind of honor for those that fought in that Civil War.”
Paisley additionally serves on the Alamance County Recreation and Parks Board and the Alamance County Transportation Authority Board, and if elected, he hopes to further advertise all amenities that Alamance County has to offer.
“Adults, children or students who are not children any longer: you need to look at Alamance County,” he said. “You have all kinds of resources here in Alamance County that are available to you. And most of them even with COVID-19 … I would really encourage you to take advantage of those.”
Pamela Thompson’s platform and visions are deeply personal. She was raised in Alamance County and said she has served the community her entire life.
Thompson works at her husband's criminal law practice, where she conducts forensic exams and specializes in drug addiction. Working with convicted felons in Alamance County, she said she has discovered a commonality: drugs.
“The drug crisis is something very important to me,” she said. “We've got a lot of cartels coming from another country that use our interstate that comes right through here. And we have got a lot of drugs.”
Last year she was appointed by Republican State Senator Phil Berger to serve on the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission, and she also served on North Carolina’s Domestic Violence Commission for several years. Additionally she has served on the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and the Justice Advisory Council.
According to Thompson, the drug crisis has fueled many of the issues facing Alamance County today.
“You ask anybody in any county in North Carolina, and you’re going to have drugs,” she said. “Which means you're going to have gangs, which means you're going to have human trafficking. They're kind of like three sisters. And they're not good for each other.”
Key to Thompson’s vision is the creation of a drug treatment center to serve Alamance County. She has also advocated for a local youth detention center to tackle these issues amongst the younger population.
Thompson has served on the Alamance-Burlington School System Board of Education since 2012 and is a strong advocate for student mental health services.
“I’m over the top for kids,” Thompson said. “Dealing with parents and their children is the most important and emotional thing I've ever done in my life.”
As a mental health advocate, Thompson said she is concerned about the effects of social isolation on children.
“I want parents to feel safe about their kids and have some choice,” she said, “but I'm ready to open up my schools and my state and just be really smart adults about it.”
As the daughter of an Air Force veteran and the mother of a United States Army sergeant, veteran services are also high on Thompson’s list of priorities.
“We have about 13,000 veterans here in Alamance County,” she said, “and we have a small, little hole in the wall in downtown Graham for their services.”
Thompson hopes to build a veteran center in Alamance County so veterans can be treated locally.
“The thing about a veteran center is the VA pays for it, so there's no tax increase,” she said. “That's something that I'm really interested in doing for our community, because nobody serves us like they did. But now we need to serve them.”
As a member of the Governor's Crime Commission, Thompson said she supports criminal justice reform but believes proper repercussions are essential.
“It's something we have got to really be smart on,” she said. “And not just assume, because it's a very low misdemeanor, that there's not a victim ... There's been a crime and everybody has to be held accountable no matter what the situation is.”
And regarding Confederate monuments, Thompson hopes for civil discourse but believes there are far more important issues to be addressed.
“I'm not going to touch that piece of rock,” she said, “until I can get these groups in a room together at a table together with an outside mediator — not somebody in this county that has any kind of investment ― that can really figure out why you're so mad.”
To complete her vision, Thompson said she would also love to see a civic center, Great Wolf Lodge and other outdoor recreational activities come to Alamance County.
“We need to have family friendly, healthy things for all ages in this county,” she said. “We got everything we need right here. I think Alamance County sometimes doesn't know its own potential.”