Commissioner Billy Joe Kepley dies at 78
Billy Joe Kepley, Davidson County’s longest-tenured commissioner, died Saturday morning of an apparent heart attack at the age of 78.
He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and four children.
Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said emergency crews responded to Kathy Kepley’s 911 call around 10:30 a.m. after she found her husband beside his tractor at their home in Welcome. Davidson County Emergency Services and EMS personnel administered CPR and transported Kepley to Wake Forest Baptist — Lexington Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.
“He was a very strong representative of the wishes and desires of the people of the county,” Grice said. “We didn’t always agree about everything, but I always knew where he stood. I always respected him. He always seemed to have a big smile on his face.”
Kepley, who was in the midst of his sixth non-consecutive term as county commissioner, served the county as an elected official for 22 years. Known for his wide-ranging areas of service, he was involved in the North Carolina Department of Transportation Advisory Committee, the Piedmont Triad Rural Planning Organization, the High Point Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Rural Transportation Advisory Committee at the time of his death.
Prior to his time in office, Kepley retired with 30 years of service from Southern Bell Telephone in 1987 and began work as a community sawmill operator. Since 1996, he worked as a hay farmer.
During his tenure as commissioner, Kepley was adamant in his support of education. As a key supporter for building a new high school in northern Davidson County, Kepley was able to see a quarter-cent sales tax referendum passed in May that allowed the project — located within just a few miles from where he lived all of his life — to move forward.
“Education has always been a big deal with Mr. Kepley,” commissioner Fred McClure said. “The new school was a very big deal with him. He had a wealth of knowledge about all different aspects of being a commissioner, and was there for any of the commissioners to rely upon if they needed some background information.
“He was one of the most accessible public servants. He made a point to represent the people not only when he was running for election, but while he served.”
A graduate of North Davidson High School, Kepley studied electrical engineering at Indiana Technical College. He was employed with several aeronautical companies and served in the United States Air Force as a flight line mechanic.
Not one to back down from causes that captured his belief, Kepley developed a reputation of persistence from opponents and allies alike. Grice and McClure both noted they did not agree with the commissioner on every issue, but they never lost respect for the community fixture.
“He just had a very positive influence on the Board of Commissioners while he was there,” said McClure. “Not to say there weren’t issues we didn’t disagree on, because there were. We were always able to go beyond those to work for the best of Davidson County. I think Mr. Kepley always acted in what he believed is the best interest of the citizens.”