Stephen Valentine Elected as Durham County Commissioner

A headshot of Stephen J. Valentine.

A headshot of Stephen J. Valentine, recently elected to Durham Board of County Commissioners.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

By Courtney Fisher

On March 5, Durham County residents cast their votes for Durham County Commissioner. Eleven candidates competed for five spots on the Durham County Board of Commissioners. One of the winning candidates, Stephen J. Valentine, is a decorated veteran who promises to tackle issues like affordable housing and the budget crisis facing Durham Public Schools.

The role of Durham County Commissioner has a few important duties that Valentine feels qualified to take on for the four-year term. Some of these duties include setting the budget for Durham Public Schools, setting the tax rate and funding the sheriff’s department, which is especially important to Valentine.

“The thing I’m running on is making sure that the county’s streets remain safe, so the funding around the sheriff’s department is important to me,” said Valentine. “The Durham County Commissioner’s office also provides funding for all the social services in Durham County.”

Having a say in the funding provided for Durham’s social services is especially meaningful to Valentine due to a long history in social work, and he also holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. Continually, he also possesses a Juris Doctorate from North Carolina Central University, where he currently serves as the director and supervising attorney of the NCCU Veterans Law Clinic.

Valentine’s current position at the clinic is inspired by his 21-year career in the military. He served multiple tours overseas in Iraq, Afghanistan and Jordan in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“I retired from military service with the rank of major, and I began my military career as an enlisted person that was commissioned as a Service Corps officer later,” said Valentine. “After law school, I became a JAG Corps officer.” JAG Corps stands for Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

Valentine believes that his history in the military has left him well-prepared to serve as a county commissioner and allows him to stand out against the other candidates, who lack military experience.

“My time in the military informed me to believe that what’s most important in any organization is how you treat people,” said Valentine. “If you take care of people, generally the mission you seek to accomplish takes care of itself.”

Valentine has experience in managing people and money from his time in the army. He was a social worker for the military, working as a behavioral science officer.

“I worked covering most of the social services that are provided to military service members,” said Valentine. “I did child abuse and neglect, I directed programs, I provided services for those programs and managed budgets for those programs, domestic violence, sexual assault and headed up a mental health facility as well.”

This experience gave Valentine skills that he feels will serve him well in the role of Durham County Commissioner, especially in the social services realm.

“My time in the military gives me a lens on how social services are provided to communities. So while the military is a microcosm, it’s definitely a reflection of larger society as well,” said Valentine. “I think I have a different lens on providing social services which will come in handy as a county commissioner.”

Valentine believes that the most pressing issue facing Durham County is the affordable housing crisis. He plans to combat this crisis by restructuring development processes and increase county involvement in these decisions.

Valentine also recognizes the need to provide a short-term solution to the budget crisis facing Durham Public Schools while looking for a more sustainable long-term solution.

Valentine wants the people of Durham to know that he is dedicated to serving them as best as he can, especially since he has been in their shoes.

“I’m a father who raised three children here in Durham, all of which are products of Durham Public Schools,” said Valentine. “I want everyone else’s children in the community to have the same sort of opportunities that my children had to be the best, whether they do private school, join the labor force, go to a trade school or go to a four-year university or college; all opportunities that my children have been able to avail themselves to.”

Stephen J. Valentine was elected as Durham County Commissioner in the March 5 election. He beat Brenda Howerton by less than 1% of votes.

“I am honored to have the support of Durham County voters and look forward to making a contribution toward improving the quality of life for all of our residents,” said Valentine.

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