Jean Hamilton

Jean Hamilton

What is your educational background? I graduated from Smith College with B.A. in Economics and studied international economics during my junior year abroad in Switzerland. I received my Ph.D. in Economics from UC Berkeley, and was a Fulbright Scholar in Sweden. I earned a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from UNC Chapel Hill in 2010.  

What is your professional background? I am currently a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who has a private psychotherapy and counseling practice in Chapel Hill. I have taught mindfulness meditation classes and worked part-time at the UNCG Student Counseling Center. I have worked as a guardian/case manager for disabled adults and as a hospice social worker. Before moving to Chapel Hill in 2001, I worked as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Occidental College in Los Angeles and did research in public health and social welfare issues. 

Have you ever held political office? If so, please describe your experience. I was elected to the Chapel Hill–Carrboro City Schools Board (CHCCS) in 2005; after my term expired in 2009, I was appointed to serve again from 2010-2011 and in 2019. During my service, I worked hard to improve the functioning of the board. I opened discussions about how we could do a better job of evaluating the performance of the superintendent and determining the effectiveness of CHCCS educational services. I advocated for timely information on the results of school district initiatives and refused to accept incomplete or incorrect data. I did not hesitate to say no to expansion of programs when costs outweighed the benefits. I worked to make board meetings more efficient by streamlining administrative presentations and pushing to end late meetings, and I advocated a return to having board members be part of School Improvement Teams. Most importantly, I have always sought out and welcomed community input; for example, when I was on a redistricting committee, I worked to establish good communication with the community and make sure all parents were heard. This approach helped to decrease parent dissatisfaction when their children were redistricted.  

Why are you choosing to run for Orange County Commissioner/Board of Education at this point in time? I’m running for a seat on the Orange County Board of County Commissioners for two reasons: (1) to make long-overdue progress in fixing our crumbling school infrastructure; and (2) to meet our county’s other critical needs while making better, more transparent, and more cost-effective decisions for the people who live and work here.

What are some of the challenges that you see facing Orange County in the coming years that you’ll have to take on if elected? The most important issues facing Orange County are providing quality education to all students; fixing aging school facilities; increasing affordable housing; expanding public transportation; meeting the needs of vulnerable residents including those who are elderly, disabled, immigrants, and poor; addressing climate change; and diversifying the tax base through economic development. In addition, our county needs to address persistent social and racial injustice. Balancing those needs and keeping property taxes level will be a challenge; however, given the financial and human resources of Orange County, I know we can do it. 

Please describe briefly your vision for Orange County: I have a vision of Orange County as a place where all county commissioners model principles of nonviolent communication and restorative justice in how they work with each other, other elected officials, and the public. With commissioner leadership, residents work together respectfully and effectively to help find solutions to our challenges and continue racial and social justice work. We develop and implement a plan to address our aging school facilities and provide adequate educational operating funds. We continue to attract commercial businesses that bring good jobs with benefits to Orange County. We increase the amount of affordable housing and expand public transportation. We also integrate ways to mitigate climate change in every decision made by the commissioners. We treat all residents with respect and improve how we deliver services to the most vulnerable. 

Why should voters vote for you in the March 3 Spring Primary? As a master’s level social worker, I’m trained and experienced in assessing the needs of vulnerable people, working in partnership with stakeholders, and staying focused on making sure the needs we’ve identified are met. As a Ph.D. economist who did research in labor economics and public health, I know how to look at the evidence, assess costs and benefits, and track results. As a school board member, I’ve shown I can use my skills and experience to draft smart budgets, evaluate and improve student performance, and decide the most effective new programs to fund. 

I believe the role of the county commissioner is to be a good steward of our county’s resources—human, environmental, and financial; to build common ground between community members; and to make sure we’re communicating why decisions are made and how taxpayer funds are spent. Vote for me and together we will forge an equitable and sustainable Orange County.