Candidate Questionnaire: John Burns


Cary, NC — This is the fifth installment of our Candidate 2014 series, in which candidates get to respond in their own words to the same three questions.

As usual, we publish the responses in the order we receive them. Next up is John Burns, running for Wake County Commissioner.

Q. Why are you running?

I am running to ensure that the Wake County we leave our children in 20 years continues to be the best place to live, work and play in the country. We can’t do that unless we plan ahead and work together to meet the challenges of unprecedented growth. Petty partisan games get in the way of the work we have to do together. I am running to end that partisanship.

Q. What are your top 3 priorities and how will you get it done?

As a father of three children in the Wake County Public Schools, my first priority as a Commissioner will be to fully fund our schools and fairly compensate our teachers. Excellent schools have been an engine for economic development. People and companies move here for the quality of life we offer. To keep that quality of life, we absolutely must have superb public schools. Our teachers are professionals and deserve to be paid like professionals. Instead, we have been driving them to other systems or out of the profession.

Second, with Wake County breaking 1 million people last month and another million on the way by 2035, we need to invest in a modern transit system that serves all of Wake County. We shouldn’t make the same mistakes Atlanta made. Wake County deserves to vote on how we will build a modern and efficient public transit system that serves all of us.

Finally I want to see a change the way our County Commission does business. Too often the Commission seems more interested in winning votes 4-3 instead of working together to better the lives of the people in Wake County. We need a County Commission that can work together and disagree in civil manner and work with our School Board to bring Wake County Schools back to the envy of the United States.

Q. Give us a brief bio and tell us about your relevant experience.

I grew up in High Point. Both of my parents are public school teachers and I am a proud graduate of the High Point Public Schools. I was fortunate to earn scholarships to Davidson College and Wake Forest Law School and to clerk for U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt before beginning my legal career.

My wife Janice and I have three children, all in the Wake County Public Schools, and we are active volunteers at Lynn Road Elementary and with the First Presbyterian Church of Raleigh, where we both have worked with the youth programs and I serve as an Elder and President of the Church Foundation.

I am a business litigation attorney with Williams Mullen in Raleigh. Throughout my career I have represented and advised businesses in the resolution of complex disputes through negotiation and, if necessary, litigation. I also counsel businesses on their operations and risk management. It is my job to represent my clients in mediation, where I sit down in a room across the table from other people being paid to disagree with me. Nevertheless, I am usually able to reach a reasonable solution to difficult problems by listening and persuading. In addition, this career has given me an understanding of business and how to help cultivate a pro-business environment to help grow our local economy.

I also served as the Chairman of the City of Raleigh’s Environmental Advisory Board. During my six years on that board, we conceived, recommended and shepherded through application most of Raleigh’s sustainability policies and actions. As a result, in 2012, the City of Raleigh was named the most sustainably run mid-sized city in America by the US Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to bringing many of those same ideas and policies to Wake County to save energy and taxpayer money in County operations.