Wendy Jacobs Re-Elected to Fourth Term as Durham County Commissioner

A headshot of Wendy Jacobs on the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.

A headshot of Wendy Jacobs on the American Tobacco Campus, a large work and entertainment hub in the heart of Durham.

Monday, April 15, 2024

By Courtney Fisher

On March 5, Durham residents re-elected Wendy Jacobs to her fourth term on the Durham Board of County Commissioners. She has served on the board since 2012 and has championed efforts in early childhood education, affordable housing, Durham transit and protecting Durham’s most vulnerable residents.

“I am passionate about Durham and I love our community, and being a county commissioner just really allows me to work with people in the community and fellow elected officials to affect positive change,” said Jacobs. “I really believe in the power of local government and I believe in the power of people to work together to make things better for our community.”

Wendy Jacobs has been a member of the Durham community for over 40 years. She grew up in New Jersey before moving to Durham to attend Duke University.

“As a Duke student, I got very involved in the Durham community, and it became very natural for me to continue my involvements and connections in the Durham community when I graduated,” she said.

After graduating from Duke, Jacobs went on to become an educator in Durham. This ignited a passion for education advocacy, which intensified after her children were enrolled within the Durham Public Schools system. She has been a strong advocate for providing as much funding as possible for public education in Durham.

“Since I’ve been a county commissioner, what I’ve witnessed is not just a defunding of public education in our state, but an attack on public education in our state,” Jacobs said. “We’re not getting enough money to educate our children and provide the resources they need.”

Jacobs has already worked across boards to tackle the public education crisis in Durham. In 2022, the largest bond in Durham’s history was passed when voters approved a $540 million bond for education in the city. Jacobs has also assisted in efforts that increased education funding in Durham by about $70 million over the last 10 years.

“We’ve increased salaries for teachers, principals, classified staff and certified staff to supply local funding to lift up people’s salaries because they’re so underfunded by the state,” she said. “That, I’m really proud of.”

On top of her work in education, Jacobs has worked to tackle issues like affordable housing through implementing the Low-Income Homeowner Relief Program. The program seeks to assist Durham’s elderly and impoverished residents, helping them pay property taxes and ensuring they have a place to call home. Jacobs has also invested in the cradle-to-career pipeline, connecting Durham residents with high-paying jobs in the area.

“The cradle-to-career program is very important,” she said. “I believe the way we lift people out of poverty is through education and then through access to high-paying jobs; that’s how we really transform lives.”

Despite all of her past successes on the board, Jacobs looks forward to collaborating with the newly elected commissioners. She will be joined on the board this term by Nida Allam, Michael Lee, Michelle Burton and Stephen J. Valentine.

“I believe in the importance of new voices and new leadership, and I’m very excited about our new colleagues that will be joining the Board of County Commissioners,” she said. “I have a lot of experience and institutional knowledge, and I really see my role on the next board as supporting the new leadership coming on.”

This term, Jacobs plans to focus on transit, housing, education, protecting Durham’s most vulnerable citizens and bringing more revenue to the Durham community. She hopes to work on implementing a better bus service and constructing better and safer bike and pedestrian trails, as well as building more affordable housing. Jacobs also aspires to maintain support for early childhood education and is working on efforts to bring more revenue to Durham County through tourism and the work of local artists and musicians.

“I think our future is really bright but we have to make sure that we make the right decisions and stay focused on addressing disparities and the inequities that we have,” she said. “I’m very hopeful that working together and working across our community and region that we can have a very bright future.”

Edited by Ava Dobson