LUMBERTON — When December arrives, Faline Locklear Dial will become the only female on the eight-person Robeson County Board of Commissioners, her second time pursuing that distinction being the charm.
The Pembroke businesswoman admits to a pinch of trepidation, but doesnt plan on ceding any ground.
“I can’t honestly say I don’t have a concern about being the only female on the board,” said Dial, who lost by a couple of votes in 2014 when she ran for the District 4 seat for the first time. “However, I feel confident in my abilities to be effective for my district and the county as a whole.”
Dial, 49, earned the right to be only the second woman ever to sit on the board after defeating Harbert Eddie Moore in the Democratic primary race on May 8, winning about 55 percent of the votes. No Republican filed for the seat currently occupied by Noah Woods, who did not seek re-election after having served on the board since 1990. Dial will be unopposed in the Nov. 6 General Election.
Dial follows in the feminine footsteps of Billie Britt, the only woman to serve as a county commissioner, representing District 7 from 1988 to 1992. Britt died in 2016, so she did not live to see anyone follow her path.
The commissioner-elect is not focused on the history-making aspect of her primary victory.
“I’m going to stay focused on this question: Is this the right thing for our taxpayers’ dollars, and is this the right thing for the people of Robeson County?” Dial said.
She believes her work with various organizations has taught her to filter distractions and competing opinions to get down to what’s right. Her past leadership roles include being president of the Pembroke Chamber of Commerce, secretary of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Foundation Board, and a commissioner/secretary of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs. Dial is a member of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Visitors and is secretary of the Pembroke Kiwanis Club.
“All boards have their own sets of dynamics and intricacies among their members,” Dial said.
She said her business dealings and community service have taught her how to watch, listen and learn, which will help her understand how the Board of Commissioners works.
“You have to put your own agenda aside and stayed focused on the goal, which is: Is this decision in the best interest of the taxpayer and District 4 and the people of Robeson County?” Dial said.
Dial has been an keen observer of the board, and sees a divide.
“My perception of the board is one of respect for the members, but with questions regarding their intentions,” Dial said. “… The whole board needs something to pull them together, whether it be a new board member, an issue, a new perspective, to pull them together. I’m not saying that’s me. I don’t know. I’m just saying.”
She is troubled by the way the commissioners compensate themselves.
The commissioners receive $700 each a month for travel, part of a pay and benefits package that is the highest in the state. They receive additional money if they leave the county for travel.
“I would like to see the travel stipend change,” Dial said.
But she doesn’t stop there.
“I certainly want to examine the commissioners’ pay and benefits,” said Dial, who expects resistance. “ … I at least have to try to bring it up.”
She wants to improve the relationship between the commissioners and the school board “because they are in such desperate need.”
She also wants to do something to improve the people’s trust and their perception of the county’s leadership.
“I hope I can do that,” Dial said.
She would like to hear more from county employees about what they like and what they don’t like. Their thoughts could be offered anonymously, she said.
“I do it with my employees all the time,” said Dial, whose business, Speech ‘N Progress, employs 15 people, including herself.
Dial intends to keep working to reduce roadside litter as a commissioner. She has been a part of multiple cleanup efforts.
“I feel strongly that the county can squeeze the budget to find more money to contract service and deal with roadside trash,” Dial said.
Dial will take her oath of office on Dec. 3, and that will be her first meeting as a working board member, according to Tammy Freeman, county clerk.
The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners will host a workshop for newly elected commissioners.
After the November elections in even-numbered years, the University of North Carolina School of Government and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners jointly hold a two-day orientation in different locations across the state.
The orientation is designed for newly elected officials, but veteran elected officials and managers also are encouraged to attend. The session also includes a two-hour ethics training session designed to satisfy the requirements of a state statute that requires board members to receive two hours of ethics training upon taking office as a commissioner and within one year of being elected or re-elected to the office of commissioner.
Since the May 8 primary, Dial has spoken with Commissioners Lance Herndon and David Edge, and with County Attorney Patrick Pait, who told her to call if she had any questions.
“And they were all very positive and encouraging,” said Dial, who hopes to hear from other commissioners.
Dial has lived in Prospect most of her life, but was born in Pennsylvania when her parents lived in Trenton, N.J., where they taught.
“So I was actually born in Pennsylvania and went to kindergarten there, and moved back here when I was 6,” Dial said.
She is married to Patrick, and they have two daughters, Madison, 21, and Laney, 11.
Her business was formed and incorporated in 2004.
“When I started out it was just me working out of my house,” Dial said.
Now she can add Robeson County commissioner to her professional resume. But Dial doesn’t look upon her election as a personal victory.
“It’s a service to the people and I’m humbled that the constituents have chosen me for this role,” Dial said.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 9100-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]