Penny Rich for County Commissioner

February 11, 2020
by Josh Mayo

Early Voting Begins This Week


It’s time to vote! One Stop Early Voting begins this week in Orange County. You can register and vote at any Early Voting location in Orange County from February 13 – February 29. See the Early Voting Schedule below and visit the Orange County Board of Elections for more information.

If you are not yet registered to vote, don’t worry! Same Day Voter Registration is available during the Early Voting period at all Early Voting sites. If completing Same-Day Registration, one must bring a valid form of HAVA ID (does not need to be a photo id, but must show residence in Orange County), and must vote during Early Voting rather than on Election Day.

Election Day Voting Options: On Primary Election Day, March 3, you are required to vote in your assigned voting precinct. If you’re not sure about your voter registration status or your Election Day voting precinct, scroll below to find helpful links to search tools offered by the NC Board of Elections.

Check Your Voter Registration Status
Look Up Your Election Day Polling Place

The most exciting part of a campaign is watching democracy at work, helping voters have their say at the polls and being part of our community’s civic engagement. With so much at stake in our country in 2020, your participation is necessary and important. Thank you for being engaged and for working to help your friends and neighbors do the same. If you use social media, spread the word about Election Day by following my accounts and sharing helpful posts.

With Gratitude,


February 5, 2020
by Josh Mayo

How Orange County is Fighting GOP Cuts to Education


Orange County is synonymous with strong public education. It is why so many people have chosen to live here. Ensuring that all our residents have access to a solid public education is one of my core values.

Unfortunately, Republican leaders in Raleigh don’t share our values. Over the past decade, our state has seen a strategic assault on public education. Republicans took over both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010, on the heels of the Great Recession, and have been relentless in their cuts to our schools.

  • 2010: The beginning of budget cuts gutting public education
  • 2016: Unfunded class size mandates – class-size chaos with no funding to support the changes. 
  • 2017: Tax cuts for the wealthy resulting in a $3 billion a year deficit for school funding including teacher pay, operations, and capital needs
  • Expanding a Private School Voucher Program that takes tens of millions of dollars away from public schools each year
While the NCGA cuts school funding with one hand, they hand our schools unfunded mandates with the other, resulting in a consistent strain on the county budget to fill the gap. 

Our county values public education and we do all that we can to step up and fill the gap. As a commissioner, I have voted for additional funding for our schools every single year since elected in 2012, and I am proud that Orange County offers the highest funding per pupil for education in our State. The county budget is roughly $220 million with a target of 48% set aside for both school districts. We also fund School Resource Officers (SROs) as well as nurses, and this past year we also funded equity training for all school employees. This brings the total allocation for schools to more than half of our annual budget.
As Chair of the Commission, I have made education a priority, and I will continue to fight for the fair and equitable funding we deserve if re-elected. But there is only so much we can do with our limited resources. After state and federal mandates for the Health Department, Social Services and Emergency Services, we are left with roughly 15-17% of the budget for operations and additional allocations county wide. A child’s success doesn’t just depend on the six to seven hours they spend in school – we need to build safe and healthy communities to truly support them. Whether it’s our libraries, our parks, our transportation services, or affordable housing, everything we do aims to build opportunities for children and families.
In previous letters on transportation, climate, and social justice, I have stressed how we need action at the local, state, and national levels of government. Education is no different. 

·       On the local level, I am committed to continued collaboration with the school boards and staff to prioritize urgent needs and to create a path forward with a maintenance plan that will allow us to address school facilities. I believe we can overcome our recent challenges and work in a much more cooperative manner.
·       At the state level, I will continue to advocate for the NCGA to take education seriously. I serve on the 2020-21 Legislative Goals committee and will introduce the following for our state representatives consideration; parental leave for all school employees; restoration of capital improvement funds; teacher pay raises; and flexible calendar schedules. 
·       Politically, our public schools, teachers and facilities are our valued treasures and must not be targets of the Republican NCGA. That’s why I’m committed to working with our Democratic caucus to win back legislative seats across the state and return to a General Assembly where education is a priority. 
As someone who moved here to give my sons the best opportunities possible, I know how important education is to our county. I hope to earn your vote for re-election and I will continue working with you throughout the year to take back control of our state budget by flipping seats in our NCGA. I hope you’ll support my campaign by visiting the links below. Keep scrolling for important voting information. Let friends and neighbors know that our Primary Election Day is almost here, held on March 3, 2020.

With gratitude,

January 28, 2020
by Josh Mayo

Creating Transportation Opportunities in Orange County

Our new solar station at the Orange County Bus Yard.


I often get asked, “What is happening with the transit plan now that the Light Rail project has been halted?” Light rail was a large part – but not the only part – of our regional comprehensive transit plan. To continue to move us forward, the Board of County Commissioners has created a steering committee comprised of two county commissioners and representatives from each municipality, and has charged them with creating and updating the comprehensive transit plan for Orange County.

As the commissioner liaison to our Metropolitan Planning Organization for the past five years, I continue to broaden our vision for public transit in the county. Despite light rail not being a part, Orange County’s transit plan has allowed us to expand bus hours in Chapel Hill, add bus routes throughout the county to connect residents to jobs, and purchase new vehicles, including three new electric vans in Orange County for on-demand service – powered by a solar EV station. We have also purchased land for a park-and-ride in Hillsborough, assisted with the Amtrak station in Hillsborough, and funded $14.1 million dollars for the upcoming North-South Bus Rapid Transit in Chapel Hill.

In the rural part of Orange County, transportation looks different than it does in the towns. Running a bus on a fixed route isn’t always the right solution. In 2018, I worked with a consultant and a focus group to create the Orange Public Transit plan. Solutions presented included expanding ride-sharing, carpool, vanpool, and on-demand services, and integrating and coordinating with transit services in the towns.

I would like to do more. I want to continue exploring multi-modal regional transportation solutions that reflect how our residents will want to travel in the future. I want to promote non-automobile transportation alternatives and create connections between all transportation modes. Most importantly, I want to ensure that transportation needs are met for all populations, especially the economically disadvantaged, the elderly, and the mobility impaired. Finally, it is so important that we continue to work with our neighboring counties to develop and implement a Regional Transit Plan that keeps Orange County connected to the rest of the Triangle.

Public Transit Options in Orange County

If you haven’t yet, please consider getting involved with my re-election campaign. Scroll below for details and to find helpful voting information. Keep spreading the word that our Primary Election Day is coming soon, held on March 3, 2020.

With gratitude,


January 21, 2020
by Josh Mayo

Social Justice and Civic Engagement

On May 17, 1957 Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a speech called “Give Us the Ballot.” In this speech Dr. King advocated for voting rights for African Americans who were restricted from voting by federal and state governments. The speech highlighted the importance of voting: to maintain basic human rights; to have representation in our legislative bodies; to elect fair judges who didn’t penalize people for the color of their skin; and for the Supreme Court to uphold the 1954 landmark decision Brown vs. Board of Education.
Sixty-three years later in 2020 and we continue this fight. Since 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly has repeatedly attempted to gerrymander voting districts to minimize the votes of people of color and college students. Rev. Barber and other civil rights leaders in North Carolina have carried on the fight where Dr King left off, but the movement needs all of us. We must protect the right to vote in free and fair elections and we must exercise our right to vote in order to achieve fair representation on our governing bodies.

Pictured at Cedar Grove with Principal Pierce at the opening of a memorial wall memorializing the all black school in Orange County. 

I have and will continue to govern though a social justice lens. Every policy that comes before the board has a social justice goal attached to it, and we can do more. We need to recognize unintended and uneven consequences of our policies and be willing to amend when needed to make outcomes work for every resident in Orange County.

As County Commissioner I will continue to promote Social Justice goals:
·       Fight against voter suppression
·       Push an anti-racist message and voice opposition to hate groups
·       Ensure that all Orange County residents feel safe and have access to economic and social advancements
·       Support programs and outreach by the Partnership for Homelessness and the Family Success Alliance to identify families needing assistance with access to adequate housing, quality education, career and employment opportunities, safe neighborhoods, protection from environmental hazards, and access to government services
·       Promote community education and dialogue about racism through the Human Relation Commission

Make sure your friends and neighbors are aware that our Primary Election Day is much sooner this year, on March 3, 2020.

With gratitude,

Pictured at a ribbon-cutting for an Empowerment affordable housing project.

January 15, 2020
by Josh Mayo

Jobs for Orange County

In 2019, I was fortunate enough to work with our Economic Development Team to recruit two major companies, ABB and Medline, to the Buckhorn Economic Development District (EDD), bringing over $100 million investment to Orange County and the promise of 650 jobs over the next five years. In addition, healthcare technology company WELL, located in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street, will invest $5 million dollars and create 400 jobs in downtown. I understand how important it is to continue to bring new job opportunities to Orange County, diversify our tax base, and reduce the tax burden on residents. 2019 was a banner year and I look forward to what 2020 will bring.
But we can’t forget about supporting our homegrown local businesses. As County Commissioner, I serve as the liaison to the small business loan and grant program intended to help strengthen and diversify the County’s local economy and help grow and retain our small businesses and agricultural based operations.
NC Secretary of Commerce Anthony Copeland along with Chair Rich announcing the Medline investment in Orange County NC.

·       support our local business with Article 46 tax dollar grants.
·       support and encourage start up companies like Innovate Carolina, LaUNCh, WEpower and 1789 to create and keep business in Orange County.
·       support the Orange County Visitors Bureau – Visitors have a huge economic impact in Orange County, generating over 200 million dollars annually and sustaining over 1900 jobs in the travel and tourism industry.
·       support programs at Durham Tech’s Orange County Campus to help train residents for our newly located company workforce.
·       support education opportunities in our high schools for skilled labor programs.

By supporting economic development opportunities of all types and sizes across the County, we can look forward to a vibrant and thriving future for residents. I appreciate your support to keep doing this important work, and I hope to continue it into the next four years.
With gratitude,

January 7, 2020
by Josh Mayo

Continued Climate Action


Remind your friends and neighbors that the Primary Election in North Carolina has been moved up to Super Tuesday on March 3, 2020.

Spread the word that a recent court ruling means that VOTER ID WILL NOT BE REQUIRED in our Primary Election.
Find a complete list of dates and important 2020 Election Information on my website.
February 7 – Voter Registration Deadline
February 13 – Early Voting Begins
March 3 – Primary Election Day

With the new year here, many are thinking of what they want to improve in 2020. My New Year’s Resolution is to push even harder for solutions to combat the Climate Crisis. I am hoping you can join me to show that what we do locally has an effect across the state, country and world. Our children remind us that we need to do better so in the future they have the ability to live in a healthy world.
In my role as county commissioner, I resolve to stay committed to local solutions that address the climate issues we face. I am committed to continue exploring recycling solutions that recover carbon based materials converting them into a safe alternative fuel source. 

I am committed to:
Working with UNC to find an alternative energy source and eliminate the use of coal.
Promoting denser land use patterns, connected by a strong regional transit system to reduce further sprawl and the greenhouse gas emissions that come from long commutes by car.
Working with communities to perform energy audits to help weatherize homes and switch to more efficient appliances and thus reduce energy bills and carbon footprint
Safeguarding the county’s Land Legacy Program to protect important natural habitats and forests
Together, we can make the needed progress to reduce our county’s footprint to carbon neutrality within a decade. To do that, I need your support in the quickly approaching primary election.


Contribute to my campaign: MAKE A DONATION
Add your name to my list of supporters: ENDORSE MY CAMPAIGN
Join me on the campaign trail: ATTEND AN EVENT
Tell friends about our new Primary Election dates: Share, Tweet, or Forward

I look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail during this important election year. You can find a complete list of my FOCUS ISSUES and CAMPAIGN ENDORSEMENTS on my website. Please reach out any time with questions or suggestions as we work together to protect what is great about Orange County and continue creating new opportunities.

With Gratitude,

Penny Rich

November 6, 2019
by Josh Mayo

Penny Rich Running for Reelection to the Orange County Board of Commissioners

Press Release

November 6, 2019

Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich is pleased to announce that she will be filing on December 2, 2019 with the North Carolina Board of Elections seeking a third term representing southeast Orange County (District 1) on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

“I am proud of the work I’ve been able to accomplish as the chair of the Board of Commissioners, and I want to continue moving the county forward as we address the pressing problem of climate change, continue to create good paying jobs by introducing opportunities for economic growth, and keep pushing towards a more equitable county for all,” Rich said.

Penny has served on the Orange Board of County Commissioners since 2012 and remains committed to being a strong voice for the environment and transportation, economic development and job creation, affordable housing, social justice and our schools. In 2019 Commissioner Rich was nominated and appointed to serve as the Chair of the Board and has lead the board through negotiations securing over 100 million dollars of economic development investment in Orange County along with a commitment to add 650 living wage jobs over the next 5 years, growing to 1100 jobs over 10 years.  She currently serves as the Finance Chair of the Orange County Visitors Bureau, and Vice Chair of the Solid Waste Advisory Group (SWAG). 

She also serves on the: 

  • Durham Chapel Hill Orange Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHO-MPO) 
  • The Triangle Council of Governments (TCOG)
  • The Chatham-Orange Workgroup
  • Go Triangle Special Tax Board
  • The Orange County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council
  • The Schools Joint Action Committee
  • The Upper Neuse River Basin Association  

Rich also leads the Quarterly NC DOT/Orange County meetings and School Collaboration Meetings. She co-chaired the Rogers Road Task Force and was proud to cut the ribbon on the long awaited sewer project, now in place. Rich has had the pleasure of being a Kenan Scholar Mentor since 2018 and enjoys helping the next generation of leaders reach their goals.

Commissioner Rich continues to work with our delegation to the North Carolina General Assembly to help expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As North Carolina continues to work against the interest of our residents, she will keep up the fight with our allies in Raleigh to implement progressive policies and to help usher in a blue wave.

Over the next four years, Rich plans to focus on the climate crisis, social justice, and economic development. 

  • Climate: Commissioner Rich will work on local and regional efforts to address the climate crisis, including the expansion of Orange Public Transit and a transition to solar powered buses. She will invest climate tax money into energy efficiency measures for lower income housing and the installation of solar panels on all government buildings. She will work with developers to encourage residential solar on new developments. 
  • Social Justice: Commissioner Rich will continue to push an anti-racist message and to voice opposition to hate groups operating and organizing in Orange County. She will work to explore affordable housing options utilizing county owned land, and will continue to push for a living wage. 
  • Economic Development: Commissioner Rich will continue to recruit companies to Orange County to grow the commercial tax base, shifting the tax burden away from homeowners and providing more funding for our schools. She will work to retain small businesses, and will partner with municipalities and UNC to create space for startups to stay in Orange County. 

Commissioner Rich lived in Chapel Hill from 1998-2018 and has lived in Carrboro since 2018. She owns a personal chef and catering company.  She was raised and educated in the New York City area where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute and a Master of Arts in Communication Technology at New York University.

Commissioner Rich will be posting updates and events on her political Facebook page . Please “Like” the page for up to date information. You can also follow Penny on Twitter @pennyrich or Instagram @penny2rich, or visit her web site at