Johnny Hora – the “people’s commissioner”Published 9:20am Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Johnny Hora could, at times, come across like a bull in a china shop. When Johnny set his mind and spirit to a project, he reminded me of one of those brave souls that tied themselves tight to a raging, wild bull and left the starting chute with only one thing on their minds – a full ride.
We lost Johnny Hora in the early morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 28, less than 48 hours after he was involved in an auto accident while returning to work following a lunch break.
At 65-years-old, some may say he lived a full life….much like that full ride onboard a bull. I would disagree….Johnny’s life had only just begun.
He was in his third year as a Gates County Commissioner. He pulled an upset during the May Primary of 2010, defeating an incumbent Commissioner by less than 50 votes for the Democratic nomination before moving on to win the seat unchallenged in the General Election later that year.
While Hora wasn’t shy when it came to butting heads with the establishment (Gates County local government at that time), he often opened himself up for criticism for “rocking the boat.” But instead of lashing out at his adversaries, Johnny took the high road….always calm and collective, but remained passionate over the cause at hand.
He built his political platform on a solid foundation as a finance officer, retired after 35 years at Union Camp/International Paper as the company’s comptroller. He said the experience of keeping close tabs on an 80 million dollar operation at IP and his vast experience in all aspects of finance and investments made him qualified to hold a seat on the board of commissioners.
The Johnny Hora of three years ago when seeking public office was the same Johnny Hora up until his untimely death. He was the “people’s commissioner” – always assuring his constituents that the money used to operate Gates County government came from the citizens and that he promised to stand watch over that stream of revenue and ensure it was wisely spent.
The following is a comment made by Hora from the April 21, 2010 edition of the Gates County Index, a story concerning a political forum held one week prior at the county courthouse and in advance of the May Primary.
“This is your county, your (commissioner’s) seat and your money. Do you want to feel proud about yourself? That’s what I’m all about. I’m trying to bring my experience, my education to save the assets of this county so we can grow and make a better quality of life for each one of you. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do that. It takes a positive, can-do attitude. I’m a team builder. I’m proactive. I’m innovative and I know how to get things done, but I have to listen to you. It’s your job to tell me and for me to listen; I’m good at that. I will listen to what you have to say and I will implement what you ask me to do. If I disagree and the majority wants it, that’s what I’m all about. I have a track record of over 35 years of protecting finance and seeing that you’ll get the best return on your money.”
In three short years on the board, Hora battled against building a new public library in the county. However, when his board colleagues voted in favor of that project, Hora set out to find the best interest rate on a $1.5 million loan as well as encouraging the county leadership to repay that loan as quickly as possible.
He also lobbied his peers to get aggressive on collecting back taxes owed to the county; and won them over after a year-long battle to use the county’s healthy fund balance to help pay down the county’s long-term debt.
That’s only a few examples of what Johnny Hora brought to the table as a county commissioner. A man of that enormous financial talent has left us all too soon. Hopefully, his legacy as the “people’s commissioner” will touch the heart of another county citizen who will pick-up Johnny’s torch and continue what he started.
RIP, Johnny Michael Hora. And to those he leaves behind - Betty, Kristie (Jeremy), Marcus, Janet (Alton), Ansley and Avery – thanks for sharing your loved one with the citizens of Gates County.
Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7207.