A friend of a friend-Robert Hester-Ken Windley-August 8

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”.

The post below is the story for August 8, 2015. My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

In my home county of Robeson, NC we had some political disappointment with an elected body during a recent search process this past week. Unfortunately many in our community think that this recent behavior by our board is unique and you will only find in our county.

Erskine Bowles the former White House Chief of Staff and an US Senate Candidate has a quote about Robeson County politics

: Erskine bowles

“I earned my bachelor’s degree in politics by running for state office, I earned my master’s degree in politics by serving in the White House, but I earned a Ph.D in politics campaigning in Robeson County”.

I don’t necessarily agree with Erskine completely because political dysfunction on elected boards is everywhere. You can also find dysfunction in families and work. Locally people might have the perception that Pinehurst, NC is sophisticated and polished community but their school board had dysfunction.

Lincoln County, NC has dysfunction with county commissioners on his views about minorities just this past week. It is everywhere.


We shouldn’t accept dysfunction and should tell those exhibiting that behavior of our disappointment. I say confront elected officials with our views on how they failed to meet expectations. We also need to realize we are not alone or unique.

Boards are made of people. People are flawed including me. Some flawed people exhibit great hubris and that is always a dangerous ingredient for a public servant to possess.

What is really important are not the boards but who are the leaders. Who are the men/women that can work to influence changing dysfunctional behaviors. Who are the leaders that refuse not to use other’s dysfunction as their excuse for failing to get results.

We have had examples of leaders in our community getting results working with dysfunctional boards and it will happen again. Leadership is hard work and sometimes it is made more difficult by a governing board that doesn’t get the concept of once a decision is made that everyone is all in. The views of the majority need to be accepted and everyone works toward the best outcome. Reality is that doesn’t always happen and the leader has to find a way to get results in spite of board not having a clue on the pinnacle of leadership involves teamwork.

All the leader can do is attempt to influence the dysfunction and seek to get results that will make a positive difference. It is hard work and takes a lot of special skills. Links to examples of political dysfunction in North Carolina outside of Robeson County are below. Trust me you can find plenty more.

Moore County, NC  School Board


Lincoln County Commissioner


Maybe a post for another day will be the power of the ballot box to change the make-up of a dysfunctional board but for now I want to talk about a friend that is a leader who has had to work with boards his entire life.

Ken Windley is an example of a leader who gets results. He has spent most of his professional life working in county and city government. That means he often served at the whim of a political board. If you know Ken you will never hear him use that as an excuse. He is a leader that knows the first fundamental is “You are Responsible”.

Ken is a 37-year veteran of city/county government. He grew up in Carteret County, NC and has served in the capacity of a city/county manager from 1984 – 2010 and a planning director from 1975 – 1984. Ken worked as the county manager of Robeson County, NC for seven years. He still lives in Lumberton, NC on 19th Street with his wife Gayle who is a retired school teacher.

I get to see Ken and Gayle often walking in the neighborhood. He and his wife make our community a better place to live. I am glad to have him as a friend.

When Ken came to Robeson County he had previous experience serving as interim manager of Polk County; manager of Davie County for nearly 10 years; and Carteret County manager for eight years. Since being separated from the position at Robeson County he has served two distinct terms as interim manager in Gates County and as the interim manager in Tyrrell County.

Ken like his wife earned his college degrees from East Carolina University in Greenville. He also is a very well thought of high school official. He also has a friend in Elizabethtown with the name Robert Hester.

The Friend-KEN WINDLEY-depicted on far right of photo

Ken Windley

The Friend of the Friend-ROBERT HESTER


The Connection

In 1982 Robert Hester joined the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC). He worked as director of member services. Robert is one of those leaders that knows what goes on behind the scenes in county government in the state of North Carolina. He is retired today but his colleagues still hold him in high esteem. In his new career he still knows what goes on behind the scenes.

In 2005 at the annual NCACC Conference in Charlotte, NC they had a “Robert Hester” night. They held the event at Knight’s Castle the minor league home to the Charlotte Knights. Since it was “Robert Hester Night” he got to throw out the first pitch. That wasn’t all because NCACC also announced that members of the Appalachian State alumni that were involved in local government had created a scholarship in Robert Hester’s name.

All of the County Managers in the state of North Carolina respected and admired Robert’s work ethic and knowledge. Apparently because NC County Managers all know that there exists the possibility their job may be in jeopardy one day because of dysfunction they came to trust Robert. The joke or truth depending on who you talked too was Robert knew what was going on in all 100 counties before the County Managers did.

Robert’s job at NCACC was to be the eyes and ears of his lobby organization and to make sure they were representing county governments in NC in the best fashion. He made many key recommendations on what leaders boards should hire. Sometimes that meant dealing with dysfunction.

Today Robert is Owner/publisher of BladenOnline.com, an online newspaper located in Bladen County, NC. He provides current local news, local sports, ag news, upcoming events, classifieds and obits for Bladen County. Robert also is involved in so many things that bring positive results to his home county. He works very closely with a great non-profit called “Bladen We Care”.


If you want to find two men that know what it is like to lead sometimes in a dysfunctional setting talk to Robert Hester and Ken Windley. They will not complain about the setting they will just advise you on how to get results. The two of them are connected in helping communities get results. We need to always be on the look out for leaders like them.

I hope all communities that have disappointment with their respective governing boards will remember not to act like the board and to withhold full commitment but to fully support the leader and help him/her get results.


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