Meet Graham’s New Councilor Joey Parsons

Parsons brings neighborhood concerns to new position on City Council

Joey Parsons is a car enthusiast, but much more.

The 52-year-old Burlington native grew up working on cars, and eventually owned a body shop in Graham, Car Art, Inc., for 14 years before selling it to follow a different career path he several years ago. Although he never quite left his lifelong love in the rearview mirror, Parsons, one of Graham’s two new councilors elected in November, currently works as a claims representative for National General Insurance.

Parsons had known his future wife, Angela Parsons, since high school – he took her to her prom at Graham High School in 1987 – it was ultimately a white 1981 Corvette that brought the couple together for several years after graduating from Western High School.

Parsons remembers admiring the Corvette from afar – which Angela’s father owned at the time – and telling her that if he ever wanted to sell it, he had to give her a call. One day in the early 1990s, she called out of the blue. “I got rid of the car but kept the woman,” Parsons says of his wife, who works for the Alamance-Burlington school system as a school counselor at EM Holt Elementary School.

As he looks forward to celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary on April 15 this year, Parsons says the key to a successful marriage is simple. “Just love each other; put God first; and treat everyone with respect,” he explains. “So many people get twisted [about] the little things – the little things are irrelevant. What if they squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle? »

Between selling his body shop and entering the insurance business, Parsons also worked as a technical representative for the paint supply company that had been one of his suppliers for Car Art, Inc. Passed the licensing exam on my first try,” he says. As a field representative for National General Insurance, Parsons covers an area of ​​three counties – Alamance, Chatham and Orange – which keeps him on the road between eight and 10 hours a week.

Parsons developed mechanical aptitude early in life. He took up drafting all four years at Southern High School; studied electromechanical engineering at Alamance Community College; and eventually gained some experience in the tool and die trade working at GKN Driveline in Mebane. He says he worked for GKN and was still single when he decided to buy a house from Graham in the early 1990s.

After GKN, Parsons went to work for Smith Architectural Metals in Greensboro, where he learned computer-aided design and drafting, or AutoCAD for short, and designed blueprints for just about everything except structural steel, se recalls Parsons.

Parsons went on to do metal design projects for North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro; North Carolina State University at Raleigh; and Fort Bragg in Fayetteville. He also designed the panels—in shapes that replicate train trestle—at the front of the old Amtrak station engine room at Company Shops in Burlington. “It was cool to see what you drew—just lines on paper—when it’s functional and finished,” Parsons says.

One of the “weirdest projects” Parsons says he worked on was the old American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, which featured a main building that “was meant to replicate the Star of David,” he says. Even now, years later, Parsons vividly remembers the two-story dormitories on the school’s campus, which had 2- to 3-foot-wide stairways between floors, which he says “were not not sure”.

“I live in the middle of the residential explosion on this side of town. Just by talking with neighbors, I got a lot of support from people in my neighborhood; some of the decisions made by [previous city council members] sat well with the neighbors. – Graham Councilor Joey Parsons

A Jewish boarding school, the American Hebrew Academy opened in 2001 but closed in 2019 due to ongoing financial problems, according to reports at the time.

“I am not political”
While volunteering for a car show that the Graham Area Business Association (GABA) held annually in downtown Graham, Parsons had few political aspirations until he entered the race for city council the last year.

The ‘explosive growth’ in and around Rogers Road in South Graham in recent years has changed my mind.

“I live in the middle of the residential explosion on this side of town,” Parsons says. “Just by talking with neighbors, I got a lot of support from people in my neighborhood; some of the decisions made by [previous city council members] sat well with the neighbors. He and his wife, Angela, live at 506 Wildwood Lane in Graham, which Parson describes as the “new part of Broad Acres” and just past South Graham Park.

For example, Parsons points to 150 single-family homes that developer Martin Shoffner had proposed to build on the south side of Graham. The newly elected councilor says that proposal “was rejected”, but council then approved a larger plan for more homes on the same site within months. “When things like that happen, you realize something isn’t working,” Parsons says.

His everyday attitude may have had a lot to do with why the first contestant won. “I don’t have a diary; I am not political,” Parsons told the newspaper. “In the past, [as] residing in Graham, I felt like my voice was not always heard. I want to give people a voice, feel like they’ve been heard and not dictated to what we’re going to do… I really see it as a service.

The board is expected to be deliberate about Graham’s future growth
Assessing traffic and roads in Graham, as well as whether the town has adequate infrastructure to handle future growth, are high on Parson’s list of priorities as he begins his term on council. . This should include consideration of the impact residential development proposals will have on the capacity of Graham’s schools, he says.

Parsons says he is looking forward to more business development in Graham, adding that he would personally like to see “a good grocery store” open in Graham. He also sees a need for “sustainable retail” that would offer “everyday” products that most people need.

At the same time, the city needs adequate resources and staff to handle the increased demand for services, such as garbage collection/recycling and emergency services that come with growth, while tax rates must remain affordable, says Parsons. Graham’s police and fire departments are already understaffed, as is the sanitation department, whose workers Parsons calls the city’s “unsung heroes.”

“We have to weigh the tax revenue against the costs to the city for additional services,” Parsons explains. “I know there’s an upside – if it’s Piedmont Natural Gas, you’re going to recoup the franchise fee – but will that offset the [city’s expenses]?”

The new councilor says he is wary of the impact high-density residential developments – which former council members voted to approve – could have on Graham in the long term.

“Overall 2035 plan has gaps that need to be fixed – developers are coming in and over-developing land [by creating] more density than the property allows,” says Parsons. “We have to be responsible because the things we do now will impact the future.”

An illustration of the differing views on growth in Graham was a proposed subdivision that Graham City Council voted 3-2 to approve in September 2020. Dubbed Riley’s Meadow, preliminary plans for the subdivision called for the construction of 393 single-family homes and townhouses. townhouse on 77 acres across from City Regional Park on Jim Minor Road. The dominating votes were cast by then-mayor Jerry Peterman, who did not seek re-election last year; councilman Chip Turner who lost the mayoral race in November to fellow councilor Jennifer Talley; and Melody Wiggins, who lost her council seat in the November 2021 election. Talley and fellow councilor Ricky Hall voted against Riley’s Meadow’s proposal.

In their spare time, Parsons and his wife are active at their church, Lamb’s Chapel in Burlington, where he serves as a deacon and leads a security team for Sunday morning church services. Parsons estimates that on average more than 3,000 people attend Sunday morning services at Lamb’s Chapel, although he says this is actually down from the pre-Covid average attendance of 5,500 people on Sundays morning.

“We are in the Top 1%” of megachurches in the United States, Parsons told the newspaper. “We have to be careful,” he says of his role in security during Sunday morning services. “We had a few times where people came in and things just weren’t going well.”

The couple have a 20-year-old son, a graduate of Southern High School, and a 14-year-old daughter, who is currently attending Southern High School.

Parson’s hobbies include the study of history and architecture; he says he drew the designs for his home in Graham and his family’s beach house on Harkers Island in Carteret County. Besides spending time with his wife and two children, he also enjoys driving his Toyota Land Cruiser on the all-terrain vehicle (ORV) trails in the Uwharrie National Forest in Troy – and, of course, working on old cars.