Continuing a tradition: First black town commissioner hopes to inspire others

Published 9:43 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

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By Jeanna Baxter White
Word Master Media Group

The Town of Mocksville welcomed Jenny Stevenson, Carl Lambert, and Johnny Frye to the town board during a swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
The new board members are ready to put their skills and experience to work on behalf of the residents of Mocksville as they begin serving their four-year terms. Each shared a little information about themselves to help the community get to know them better.
Stevenson did not make the decision to run lightly. Several years ago, she began attending the monthly town board meetings and heard residents’ issues, thoughts, and concerns.
Then in 2019, she served on the Town of Mocksville’s Comprehensive Planning Board, which ultimately motivated her to run.
She considers herself “an ordinary person who wants to do extraordinary things for the Town of Mocksville.”
“I want to make a difference and be available to help anyone I can. I know I won’t please everyone all of the time, but I want to act as a mediator who works to help everybody so that we have win-wins instead of win-losses.”
Stevenson comes from a large family whose roots in Davie County run deep. Five generations of her family, including her grandmother, mother, daughter, and granddaughters, still live in Davie. Her great-grandmother opened one of the first black churches, and her grandfather, Clifton Cockerham, was one of the first black business owners.
Now, she will serve as Mocksville’s first black town board member. Her grandmother, Eloise Cockerham, proudly held the Bible during her swearing-in ceremony.
She hopes that her election will encourage other persons of color to run for municipal office.
“I want young people, whether black, white, Hispanic, or Asian, anybody, to know that they can be whoever they want to be.”
She plans to apply lessons learned from her grandfather to her role as a board member:
• if you befriend people, they will befriend you;
• love unconditionally; and
• agree to disagree and know that we will all be okay.
A friendly person who has never met a stranger, she thrives on connecting with people. While she already knew many people through being raised here and her roles as Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) coordinator at Mocksville Elementary, Big Brothers Big Sisters match support specialist, and a minister at New Life Apostolic Church, Stevenson said she enjoyed meeting new people while campaigning and is looking forward to continuing to do so while serving on the town board.
“I’m a listener. I take things in, pray about it, and then make a decision. Everything I do is because of Him. I want Him to guide me to be what I need to be for the town. It is going to be an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the people in this community and to really hear their concerns and then, with the Lord’s guidance, vote in favor of what is best for the community as a whole.”
Stevenson said she loves the town and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but there is always room for improvement. Two of her priorities include developing affordable family housing and growing the town while maintaining its small-town feel.
One obstacle she believes the town continues to face is affordable housing for families. She recounted her daughter Maleia’s struggle to find a home.
“Statistics from 2019 showed that our median income for a couple is around $43,000, and it’s around $23,000 for an individual, so they can’t afford a $250,000 home. I’d love to see our town be intentional about creating affordable, single-family housing opportunities for the people who already live here and those moving in.
“I want to see us continue to grow and diversify. I want students who go away to school to want to come back here to live, work, and raise a family because we have so much to offer.”
Lambert moved to Mocksville three decades ago from Ohio and quickly fell in love with its small-town charm. “A gentle spirit of community sweeps through the entire area, and it is unlike anywhere else. This makes Mocksville a true gem of the South.”
He and his wife, Kim, have raised their three children, Jacob, Hayley, and Allison, and own a business here, Lambert Funeral Home and Cremation Service.
Committed to giving back to the community he loves, Lambert has served on many boards, including the Davie County School Board, Davie YMCA, Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way. Now that his children are adults, he felt he had the time to commit to serving on the town board.
He pointed out that Mocksville offers a first-class educational system, world-class healthcare, beautiful parks, a community arts center, vibrant downtown, and dedicated citizens. But despite all of the good, he believes the town oshould always be climbing toward great.
He would like to focus on infrastructure and continued economic growth. “We’ve had good economic growth and should continue to seek out industry to increase the great employment ratio we have in the county.”
With that growth and the changes it will bring, he believes the town will need strong leaders with good business sense, transparency, and good core values to ensure Mocksville moves in the right direction.
“I’m looking forward to working with our town manager (Ken Gamble) to continue his vision for the community and to allow him with his knowledge to build upon the great things the town already has.”
He is committed to supporting Gamble and the board in making sound decisions that are fiscally responsible and benefit the whole town.
“I think we need to continue to maintain a strong fund balance while addressing the many needs in the community, including the daily budgetary needs for departmental operations as well as additional capital improvements as they come along.
“I think there are so many great things happening in the community with respect to retail and business and homes that will soon be under construction in the Country Lane area. I’d like to see the downtown continue to blossom and additional businesses be built on Depot and the surrounding streets. It will be important to continue our path but still maintain our hometown roots. I want Mocksville to continue to be a destination for people to come to visit and also live, work and play.”
Frye has dedicated his life to serving the residents of Mocksville and Davie County. He spent 33 years with Davie County EMS and Davie County Emergency Management before retiring as the director but has continued to serve the county in other capacities.
He previously served on the Mocksville Town Board and the Davie County Board of Commissioners. He has received numerous awards for his service, including the Order of the Longleaf Pine.
Frye was born and raised in Davie County as part of a family of 12, all of whom are still in the county. He and his wife Diethilde (Dee) have lived on Oak Street for the past 52 years, where they raised their three sons, John, Steven, and Lester.
He is proud of the town and its friendly hometown feel and said that it had done an excellent job developing the downtown and making Mocksville attractive to new businesses and residents. However, for that growth to continue, he believes the town must focus on its aging infrastructure, particularly the sewer and water systems.
Frye is eager to put his conservative common-sense approach to making decisions and experience in local, state, and federal government to work helping Mocksville continue moving forward in a positive direction. “As a lifelong resident, I can contribute by sharing my experiences and representing the citizens of Mocksville. The growth of our community must be met with wisdom, understanding, and the knowledge of our current strengths and weaknesses.
“I am proud and honored to serve the citizens of Mocksville and Davie County. We have a good town manager, a good mayor, and a good board that will work together as a team to meet the needs of the citizens of Mocksville and move the town in the right direction.”
Gamble is confident these new board members will be an asset to the town and is looking forward to working with them.
“It is an honor and privilege to serve the community alongside a such diverse, passionate, and committed mayor and board. I am looking forward to working with Commissioners Frye, Lambert, and Stevenson as we address the many challenges facing our community.”