Incumbent County Commissioner Billy Kennedy emphasizes importance of local voices


Billy Kennedy, candidate for County Commissioner, poses with a fellow democrat at the polls during last year’s municipal elections.

Erin O'Neill, Reporter

Billy Kennedy, current Watauga County Commissioner who represents District 3, is running for reelection after years of experience in public office. 

Kennedy, who is also the App State liaison from the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, recalled that the first time he ran for County Commissioner, an opponent said they believed only people who grew up in Watauga County should be allowed to vote there.

“I believe that students should be able to vote, as the Supreme Court ruled in 1979, wherever they are, and anything that is against that is trying to disenfranchise students,” Kennedy said. “Students’ votes matter. Once you’re 18, you have the legal right and hopefully, motivation to vote.”

Kennedy has resided in Watauga County for 38 years and was first elected as County Commissioner in 2012 for a two-year term. He was reelected in 2014 for a four-year term. He has served as vice chairman for the County Commission for two years and ran for Congress against Virginia Foxx in 2010 and lost.

Kennedy has also been involved with the statewide Mental Health Board, a local hospital board, the Children’s Council of Watauga County and the Child Protective Services Council over the past six years. Kennedy said being involved with these councils has helped him learn.

“There’s a lot of good programs in Watauga County and I want to make sure we keep them going,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also said the County Commissioners have been working on school safety, as well as plans for a $38 million community recreation center, which Kennedy has been on the board for and heavily involved in for about three years.

“We’ve wanted (the recreation center) for 40 years and we finally made it happen, so I’d like to see that through,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy also said he feels it is important for all people in the county to have a voice when it comes to county decisions, regardless of their backgrounds.

“I don’t want to be part of anything that makes women second-class citizens,” Kennedy said. “I’m very much, even though I’m a white male, in-tune to not having women being made less in our society.”

Kennedy also emphasized the significance of the upcoming elections.

“These are really important elections because even though the county race is not going to affect state and federal policies, we are completely dependent on what happens at the federal and the state level because in North Carolina, counties and towns are just arms of the state,” Kennedy said.

Although Kennedy is passionate about improving the lives of current Watauga County residents, he said he realizes he is ultimately part of a bigger picture.

“One thing I’ve realized is that people came before me and people will be coming after me,” Kennedy said. “I’m just a cog in the wheel of Watauga County history, and I hope to be a positive part instead of a negative or divisive part.”

Story by Erin O’Neill

Photo courtesy of Billy Kennedy 

Featured photo caption: Billy Kennedy, candidate for County Commissioner, poses with a fellow democrat at the polls during last year’s municipal elections.