Celebrating Black Excellence Profile: Dr. James West

Wake County is excited to celebrate Black History Month by highlighting Black excellence in our community and among our staff.

Throughout the month of February, we'll be sharing personal profiles of Wake County leaders who truly embody what it means to honor diversity, inclusion and equity in service.

Today's Celebrating Black Excellence profile features Dr. James West, Wake County Commissioner..

Additional profiles will be added throughout the month, so be sure to check back often for more insights on Black excellence in our community.

James West

Wake County Commissioner James West

Dr. James West, Wake County Commissioner - District 5, was appointed in 2010 and elected in 2012.  He has thus been re-elected in 2016, 2018 and 2020.  His current term runs through December 2024.  Dr. West’s professional experience began with North Carolina State University in 1995.  He is actively serving as Director of County Operations Emeritus and Associate Tenured Professor Emeritus. Commissioner West also provides consultant knowledge and has served as spokesperson for workshops focused on:  

  • Program Model for Planned Change, Alcorn State Univ. Extension Program (ASUEP) 
  • Leadership and Process Management for Continuous Quality Improvement(ASUEP) 
  • Conflict Management and Change, North Carolina Institute for Government 

Commissioner West’s Regional, State & National Leadership experience stems from his service on the Raleigh City County, District C Representative from 1999-2010.  In this capacity, he served as Mayor Pro Tem from 2003-2010 and served on the following Committees: Budget & Economic Development, Co-Chair; Law & Public Safety and Public Works. 

Commissioner West actively dedicates his expertise in areas of Public Service & Community Activities with focus on the following:

  • Founder, Wake County Collaborative Partnership in Excellence in Youth Development 
  • Founder, Southeast Raleigh Assembly (SERA) 
  • Charter Member, Wake County Voter Education Coalition 
  • Century Club Member, Wake County Democratic Party 
  • Chair, Garner Schools Area Advisory Council 
  • Founding Co-Chair, Raleigh South Citizen Advisory Council (CAC) 
  • Chair, Southeast Community Land Use Planning Task Force 
  • President, Fred A. Smith Elementary School Parent Teacher Association 
  • Raleigh-Wake Citizen Association 
  • City of Raleigh Board of Adjustments 
  • Louisburg College Board of Trustees 

Commissioner West received his graduate education from North Carolina State University, Raleigh.  He completed his post-doctoral study, Legislative Process in 1995; Post-doctoral study, Advanced Management in 1981; received his Doctor of Education, Adult and Community College Education in 1981 and Master of Education, Adult and Community College Education in 1971.   Commissioner West received his Bachelor of Sciences, Agricultural Engineering in 1964 from North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, NC.

Q & A – Getting to Know You

What does Black excellence mean to you?
think it’s important from my perspective that I work to try to pave the way for hope and enlightenment for young people and future generations.

What would you tell your 15-year-old self?
I reflect on what I shared with my own children at that age. It’s okay when you make a mistake, but it is also essential that you focus and have purpose for your life. It is with a purpose driven life that you have a much higher likelihood to be successful. Not only this, but I would also tell all young people, never give up; no matter the curves in life that may be thrown at you. Last but not least, I would share the 5 P’s that I learned during my life: Prior preparation will prevent poor performance. 

What was the last song you heard and/or book you read?
I love books and do quite a bit of reading about leadership. I am currently reading a book gifted from my daughter called Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.

What is a quote that resonates with you?
“Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” – Stephen Covey

What are you most proud of?
I am proud of being able to move up the ladder with all the impediments and barriers that were placed on my people. One accomplishment in particular that stands out is being the first African American in the United States and the state of North Carolina to become the Director of County Operations for the North Carolina Cooperative Extensive Service (at NC State University) with the responsibility of supervising over 1,000 extension faculty and support staff.

Press Release