Former Guilford County Commissioner Joe Wood – a strongly opinionated Democrat who served on the Board of Commissioners in the early ‘90s – has passed away.
On Thursday, Feb. 28, Wood, who had faced health issues for years, was being remembered fondly by his political friends and foes alike. Wood, a graduate of Grimsley High School and UNC-Chapel Hill, won the District 6 seat on the county board in 1992 and served until 1994, when former Guilford County Commissioner Chuck Winfree beat out Wood for that seat.
In 1998, Wood attempted to regain it, but that year he lost in the Democratic Primary to a young political upstart named Jeff Thigpen, who’s now Guilford County’s Register of Deeds.
Wood was by all accounts a very colorful character with a passion for cars and music.
Thigpen said on Thursday that, though the two men ran against each other, they got along very well.
“When I was running in 1998, I was working really hard because no one knew who I was – and Joe had just had bypass surgery,” Thigpen said.
He said that, since Wood would be back out campaigning soon, he knew he’d better make the most of the campaign at the start.
Thigpen said he felt he was doing well because he’d knocked on “about 1,000 doors,” but he woke up one Saturday morning to continue to campaign in the Lindley Park area, and he could hardly believe his eyes: Virtually overnight, Woods signs had popped up all over like mushrooms after a rainstorm.
“I mean, they wereeverywhere,” Thigpen said.
He said that, even though Wood was recovering from bypass surgery, Wood had begun calling people and many District 6 residents had gone down to his house and picked up signs to display in their yards.
Thigpen said the two men found out they both had roots in Pender County and then, amazed at that, further conversation revealed they both had cousins in that area with the family name Murray.
“I said, “Hell, we’re kin!” Thigpen said.
Commissioner Skip Alston came on to the Board of Commissioners in 1992 with Wood.
“He was a good Democrat and a good team player,” Alston said. “He always asked a lot of questions – which is a good thing – and he would work with you if you had good answers.”
Some county officials said Wood held very strong opinions and, once he was convinced of something, it was hard to shake him.
“When he took a position, he didn’t hold back,” one said.