Holly Jones has built a career and a political following in Asheville. But she isn’t well known outside Buncombe County, so it was a surprise when she decided to challenge Linda Coleman — who almost defeated Lt. Gov. Dan Forest four years ago — for the Democratic nomination to face Forest.
But her message is not surprising: She is running a campaign in response to the Republican-controlled legislature’s clashes with local government over such issues as the airport and water system in Asheville.
Jones, 53, was a public health educator in Durham and later went to work for the YWCA in Asheville, becoming its executive director and director of the Southeast region. In 2011, then-Gov. Bev Perdue appointed her to a juvenile justice subcommittee of the Governor’s Crime Commission.
Jones cites a record while in office of economic growth in the county, new schools and teacher salary supplements that are among the highest in the state, setting a goal of reducing carbon emissions in the county by 80 percent, conserving land, and helping include sexual orientation and gender identity in the county’s nondiscrimination policy.
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Nonprofit, public office background
Jones says she has been formed by her 14 years in public office, as well as by her efforts to turn around a YWCA operation that was nearly bankrupt. It now employs 100 people and serves as a community gathering place.
From that base of experience, Jones has launched a statewide political gambit that has drawn support — more than 900 individuals concentrated in the Asheville area have given her money, according to the most recent campaign finance report.
She has raised the most money in the four-way race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, more than $190,000, and has $114,000 on hand.
‘If we could work together’
At a recent appearance before a group of Democrats in Rowan County, Jones hammered on the theme that the General Assembly was running roughshod over cities and counties, according to The Salisbury Post.
“Just think of what we could do if the legislature wasn’t against us, if we could work together,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I want to be lieutenant governor.”
Education: Bachelor’s in public policy analysis and master’s in public health, UNC Chapel Hill; master’s of divinity, Duke University
Family: Husband, Bob Falls; daughter
Professional resume: Director of member services for the YWCA USA; former public health educator; former executive director of the YWCA of Asheville
Politics: Won a seat on the Asheville City Council in 2001; elected Buncombe County commissioner in 2008
Worth knowing: Her father, Neil Jones, served in the state Senate
What does a lieutenant governor do?
The duties of the lieutenant governor are not extensive: presiding over the state Senate when it’s in session; voting only to break ties; serving on the state Board of Education and the state Board of Community Colleges; standing in if the governor is indisposed. But the office can be a springboard for an aspiring politician.