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A New Chapter 

by Jessica Wells, League Communications Specialist

As Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall’s term as League President comes to an end so does his decade as an elected official. However, it’s not the end of his service to his hometown. In this next chapter, he’ll focus on his role as head of The Burlington School.

"The Burlington School is something that I’m excited about," Wall said. "I love education. I love children. I’m so excited about this that I was willing to get out of politics to try to move this school forward."

The Burlington School is a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade private school formed after The Elon School, for high school students, and Burlington Day School, for grades pre-kindergarten through 8, merged in 2013. Since March of this year, Wall has been in charge of recruiting new students and ensuring high-quality educational opportunities. With a little more than 250 students, Wall said he thinks they can bring in around 100 more and still maintain the low student-teacher ratio and sense of community parents and students enjoy.

Wall, who has more than 30 years of experience in education, is returning to his education roots, but he’s also playing an important role in economic development as head of school. He said having a top-notch private school in Burlington will be attractive to CEOs who are considering relocating to Burlington or surrounding communities.

"In my role at the school, being the mayor gives us some credibility and name recognition," Wall said. "Burlington’s great education – public, private, and Elon being one of the top universities in the country – makes it an even better place to live."

Located halfway between the mountains and the coast, Wall’s hometown is gaining attention from new businesses. Recently, Sheetz, the gas station and convenience store chain, opened a new distribution center, which employs about 300, and Honda Aero opened a plant to produce jet engines. The Honda Aero plant is the first new plant to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration in 20 years. In addition to roughly 70 jobs, the new plant will provide scholarships for Alamance Community College students.

"Commercial investment is a big deal to me because I grew up a half a mile from some of these projects," Wall said. "It’s something I’ve tried to look after. Many of the same kids I went to school with have parents still living in the same houses 40 years later, and they depend on me to try to help them."

Since being elected to city council in 2005 and the mayor’s seat in 2007, Wall has focused on cleaning up Burlington and improving communication between the city and its citizens. He’s seen to it that neglected buildings are torn down or repurposed, which greatly improved the view going through town.

One of his favorite projects was starting neighborhood meetings where he and city council members would visit different neighborhoods to listen to what citizens had on their minds –including a need for public transportation.

"Sometimes coming to city hall and speaking in front of council on our turf, instead of being on their turf, is a little bit uncomfortable," Wall said. "It’s allowed many citizens to tell us what’s on their mind, and one of the things we kept hearing was public transportation, so finally we pulled that off."

According to Wall, Burlington is the largest city in North Carolina without its own transit system, but he’s proud that in 2016 that will no longer be the case. The city is tentatively planning four contracted buses on separate routes taking riders to the hospital, shopping centers, and even nearby Gibsonville.
As his term comes to a close, Wall is also wrapping up three years of service to the League’s Executive Committee. He’s worked diligently on behalf of North Carolina’s cities and towns on issues including the redistribution of sales tax and protection of the Privilege License Tax.

“Being president allowed me a seat at the table to better understand the decisions legislators make – not that I agree with all of them, but it gives me a better understanding,” he said. “Being the president of the League has been a lot of work for me, but it’s been very helpful to our citizens because I can give updates based on a firsthand look.”

As President, Wall counts the work on Strategic Visioning, the formation of the Leading League Insurance Services to 2040 Task Force and having the best legislative session in five years as key accomplishments.

“Everything that we do is about having vision and implementing that vision over the next 20 years is something that is very important in moving the ship in the right direction,” he said. “I applaud everyone involved in that. They worked extremely hard and it took some strong leadership to move that in the right direction. The Board has been great, and the process has involved a variety of people and communities – both large and small.”

Wall chairs the League Insurance 2040 Task Force and said he believes the work of that committee is paramount in ensuring the viability and success of the insurance programs and the League in general.

During his time on the Executive Committee, Wall made many trek to Raleigh to express the needs of municipalities to the legislature and said he can see where efforts of the League have lead to better results at the General Assembly.

“We worked hard to build relationships, and I think we’ve made progress. Relationships have improved, and the grassroots efforts of the membership have paid off.”

In addition to serving on the Executive Committee, Wall has also served on Legislative Action Committees, which are responsible for researching and presenting advocacy goals to the League’s membership.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I’ve had the chance to work alongside professional board members who represent a diverse group of cities and
towns,” Wall said. “The likelihood of positive policy outcomes involves all of
us working together and knowing what we’re trying to accomplish. I’m very
excited about the future of the League and North Carolina. It’s very important
to me, but I think change is healthy, and it’s time for someone else to steer us in
that direction."