Down, but not out
Despite the ups and downs of his recent political career, don’t look for High Pointer John Parks to retire from public service.
Parks, who could not run in 2012 for re-election to an at-large Guilford County Board of Commissioners seat because of redistricting, said he isn’t bitter.
“I never get bitter about anything,” said the four-term veteran. “That eats at you. You have to be as positive as you can be. We have a foundation to build a great future. We have a county that pulls together to show we care about each other.”
Parks was prepared to run for re-election, but a state redistricting plan approved by the federal court created eight districts and one at-large seat, but no at-large election until 2014. Democratic Commissioner Kay Cashion was named to hold the at-large seat until 2014.
“It was unusual. The legislation went to the court and the court named people to positions, after putting two people in the same district,” Parks said. “The plan was switched overnight, and there was no local referendum for citizens on the plan.”
The legal battle was the second for Parks. It took elections officials 18 months to give Parks the at-large seat by the 90-vote margin he took in 2004 over Republican Trudy Wade, who kept the seat during the dispute.
Parks has had political ambitions for decades.
“In my younger days, it was for Congress,” he said. “But now you have to look at the districts. You can almost predict who will win in a district because they lean to Democrat, Republican or minority.”
A High Point City Council run is possible for an at-large seat, Parks said, in addition to a run for the single at-large commissioners seat. Parks said he intends to travel and take in more family time while he decides on his political future.
Parks is no stranger to volatile politics. He was active in school redistricting in Jamestown before he joined the Guilford County Board of Education in 1988.
“There had been no school construction for years, and we got a new middle school built for Southwest ahead of the merger of the districts and when many people wanted to hold off,” Parks said.
While a school board member, Parks saw how county government and schools are financed. By 1992, he was on the Board of Commissioners.
“I’ve always supported education, and I saw the need for bonds to build schools,” Parks said.
Parks failed to win the Democratic Party nomination in 2000.
“The defeat may have come from people who did not want to go the way I wanted with the schools, with a bond package for all schools and not just one project for Dudley High School.”
Another controversy at that time was the proposed county purchase of the then nearly empty Carolina Circle Mall in Greensboro as a possible home for some Guilford Technical Community College classes. Commissioners turned down the deal on a close vote.
“I did not want to see the county get into the real estate business,” Parks said. “Since then GTCC has gotten a new campus.”
After returning to the board, Parks supported High Point projects and the Market, the arts and many business incentive packages.
“If there were negotiations involved, I looked out for High Point,” he said.
Known as one of the more mild-mannered and circumspect commissioners to have served recently, Parks rarely spoke at meetings.
“I spoke when I needed to,” he said. “I did not want to be involved in controversies. You can work one-on-one to get things done. I wanted always to be professional.”
That is also part of Parks’ advice for incoming newcomers.
“Be professional. Be informed and open-minded and objective,” he said. “Make the decision you think is right regardless of the circumstances.”
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