Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips will serve as the chairman of the Board of Commissioners for 2020 according to several sources on that board. The board will elect its next chairman at the first meeting in December and Phillips will serve for the following 12 months in that role – during what, by all accounts, will be a critical year for Guilford County government and one in which the county will face a great many of challenges.
Most of those challenges will be financial in nature and that may be one reason Phillips’ fellow commissioners have decided he should be chairman this year. By day, Phillips works as a financial advisor and, ever since Phillips was elected to the board in 2012, he’s taken the lead on the budget. He also knows the job of chairman. He’s held it twice before, and his fellow commissioners have said in the past that he does a very good job running the meetings – allowing people to speak, maintaining order and keeping the board focused on the topics at hand so meetings don’t run late into the night.
Phillips also has a remarkable attendance record for meetings and work sessions. Earlier this month he missed a meeting, which stunned everyone because it was the first meeting or work session he not attended since being elected to the board in 2012. (Phillips said later that it was due to an extremely important business conference in Washington DC that he felt compelled to attend.)
Phillips said this week that nothing is a certainty until a vote is taken but he did admit that he was seeking the job and did feel as though he currently had the support to get it.
Commissioner Skip Alston, a Democrat, said that the groundwork for Phillips being chairman was laid a year ago in conversations among Republican commissioners – conversations that, at that time, made current Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Alan Branson the chairman.
“The deal was done last year,” Alston said this week.
Given the difficulties currently facing Guilford County, Phillips certainly has his work cut out for him. The county hasn’t had a tax increase in seven years. The Republican majority on the board hates tax increases and is going to do everything it can not to have one when a new county budget is adopted in June of 2020. However, the county is facing massive pressure from Guilford County Schools for much greater funding and the county is also undertaking a host of expensive projects such as building a new animal shelter, new Sherriff’s Department headquarters, new Emergency Services vehicle maintenance center and new behavioral health center.
Phillips represents District 5 as a commissioner, a district that includes parts of northwestern Greensboro and northwestern Guilford County including most of Summerfield. He’s a native of North Carolina – born in Winston-Salem in 1962 – however, his family moved around a lot before settling in Oklahoma City, where Phillips eventually went to work for a local newspaper, the Daily Oklahoman. Phillips often seems like a total North Carolinian, however, during football and basketball season when everyone else is talking about Carolina, Duke and other ACC teams, Phillips goes on and on about the Oklahoma Sooners.
At the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma, Phillips majored in computer science and minored in business before beginning a career in financial services. He worked with Prudential, PaineWebber/UBS and Wachovia Securities before he started his own firm – Phillips Wealth Management.
The chairman of the Board of Commissioners is sometimes referred to as the “mayor of the county” because he or she is the highest-ranking political leader in the county and has the highest public profile of any of the commissioners. Though the chairman only gets one vote like the other commissioners, he or she runs the meetings, has a great deal of say over what items go on the board’s agenda and frequently speaks on the board’s behalf at public ceremonies.