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NC Rural Center Announces New Board Chair and Four New Members From Across North Carolina

Raleigh – The NC Rural Center’s Board of Directors has announced the addition of four new members, as of January 2021. Joining the board are Jose Alvarez (Charlotte), Sara Chester (Morganton), Ray Jeffers (Roxboro), and Angela Judge (Elizabeth City). 
Since 1987, the NC Rural Center has worked to develop, promote, and implement sound economic strategies to improve the quality of life of rural North Carolinians. The Center serves the state’s 80 rural counties, with a special focus on individuals of low-to-moderate income and communities with limited resources.  
Alvarez is the vice president of Prospera-North Carolina, Florida-based nonprofit focused on providing bilingual support and assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their business. With Prospera-North Carolina, Alvarez is managing the first office outside of Florida as part of a national expansion plan to provide the statewide Latino community with culturally focused and in-language business support to help increase economic opportunities through entrepreneurship.
Chester is the executive co-director for The Industrial Commons, a nonprofit based in Morganton that aims to build a diverse working class and root wealth in rural communities. Having worked in economic and community development for almost 10 years, Chester has received an IEDC award for Innovative Economic Development and was named a J.M.K. Innovation Prize awardee and a Communities Thrive Challenge awardee. Chester also serves on the Burke County Planning Board.
Jeffers is a former three-term Person County Commissioner, first elected to the board in 2008 and was the youngest commissioner elected that year in North Carolina. In 2013, Jeffers was sworn in as the 97th president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, where he was the first commissioner from Person County elected to the role, as well as the youngest president in the Association’s history. Jeffers is also the owner and operator of B.R. Jeffers Farms LLC.
Judge is the assistant city manager of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. She is also the chief administrator of Elizabeth City’s development standards operations and officers, namely Community Development, Planning, Inspections, Code Enforcement, Parks & Recreation, Human Resources, among others. Judge managed several multimillion-dollar projects, including the property acquisition and standing of the City’s Public Safety Administration Building, remodeling and renovation of City Hall and the Parker Midgett Municipal Operations complex, and the Elizabeth City Electric Utility smart meter integration. 
“Jose, Sara, Ray, and Angela all bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our board,” said NC Rural Center President Patrick Woodie. “They have a deep understanding of the challenges rural North Carolina faces, but are keenly aware of the assets and opportunities within our rural communities. The Rural Center Board of Directors and I look forward to working with them to build a brighter future for all rural North Carolinians.”
Additionally, the Board elected Sarah Thompson (Sylva), executive director of the Southwestern Commission Council of Governments, to its leadership as chairperson.  
Thompson will replace Grant Godwin as board chair. Godwin, a Sampson County native and former vice president of Martin Marietta Composites, served as the Rural Center’s board chair since 2014. 
“We are so grateful for Grant’s years of service,” said Woodie. “His thoughtful and steady leadership on the board saw us through a period of crucial growth and we are pleased that he will stay on as an emeritus board member.” 
Thompson is currently a Rural Center board member and the former chairperson of Thread Capital, the Rural Center’s small-business lending subsidiary, as well as a graduate of the Center’s leadership development program, the Rural Economic Development Institute (REDI). Prior to leading the Southwestern Commission, Thompson served on the board of the Main Street Sylva Association, and eventually served as its executive director. 
“Sarah’s dedication to our state’s rural people and places is unmatched,” said Woodie. “She has been a trusted partner of the Center for years, and I am looking forward to the work we will accomplish under her leadership as our board chair.”