The Heart of Kernersville: Mayor Dawn Morgan

By NJ Clausen

Hello and Happy Spring! As Kernersville comes alive with color, many take advantage of the nicer weather with a downtown stroll or a visit to one of our many parks. This month, as you enjoy our town, I want you to get to know the Mayor of Kernersville a little better.

Dawn Morgan grew up in Hampton, Virginia. She loved two things especially: reading and being involved with the Girl Scouts, where she discovered the joys of camping. In middle school through the Girl Scouts, she traveled to Ohio and was part of a ‘Wider Opportunity.’ There she learned about the Great Lakes and renewable energy with girls who had traveled from all over the United States to be part of this experience. In junior high her creativity on the day of sport events with elaborate hats and outfits won her the title of ‘The Most School-Spirited.’

Although participation in Girl Scouts often drops off during the high school years, Dawn, and three other girls who all attended different high schools, organized an entire camping weekend event for their council. This earned the four of them what was then the highest attainable award, the Girl Scout First Class Award, which would be comparable to the Eagle Scout Award in Boy Scouts. After acquiring this award, the Girl Scout Council announced that there would be a NEW top-level award called the Gold Award. They looked at each other and said, “We can do it!” And they did!

This new level included ‘career exploration’ which included a Saturday at a car dealership where they changed oil and tires to learn about automobile mechanics. There were different tasks to attain this award, and Dawn’s specific Gold Award project was to go to daycare and childcare centers and tell stories about friendship, sharing, and helping each other. All four of the girls did achieve this award and received recognition nationally.

After high school, Dawn first continued her education at the University of Virginia, appreciating its rich history and liberal arts program. In addition to her studies, Dawn wrote for the student newspaper, was a copy editor for the university journal, and a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority. After graduating and while working at a bank for a year in the management program for retail banking, Dawn became interested in the finance departments. She had taken a substantial number of business courses; however this prompted the desire for an MBA, which led her to the University of Texas where after the two-year program she earned her MBA in Marketing and Finance. One of the required classes was business law, and she absolutely loved it! After Texas and a student population of over 50,000, she came to Wake Forest University with an incoming class of 150 students in law school. Dawn graduated with a JD degree, Magna Cum Laude. After clerking for a year, she worked as an associate in a law firm in Winston-Salem. In spring of 1994, Dawn and her husband moved to Kernersville and one of the first things they did was go to Spring Folly. She remembers artwork done by children hung with clothespins on a clothesline in Harmon Park.

Through working for the law firm, Dawn was able to join the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce ‘Business After Hours’ Committee, making name tags for people as they came into events. After doing this for a time, she was appointed to serve on the planning board in 1997, which was working on the ‘Kernersville 2020’ planning process with the Town and the Chamber. Items in that plan included the new Kernersville Library and road networks.

Following the arrival of their first child, Dawn left the practice and joined the Moms Club of Kernersville, which did numerous service projects, eventually becoming President of the club. Dawn remained on the planning board, which is an advisory board to the Board of Aldermen, and when a position opened on the Board of Aldermen she decided to run for and was elected to that position to be involved in the final decisions for the community. One of the duties of the Board of Aldermen is to hire the Town Manager. When the current mayor was hired for that position, a vacancy for the office of mayor was created, and Dawn was appointed for the unexpired term. Since then, Dawn has been re-elected as Mayor six times. Kernersville was incorporated in 1871, and with her appointment she was the first female mayor, then after winning the election, the first elected female mayor.

When asked what brings her joy, Dawn responded her faith, family, and community involvement. As Mayor, she really enjoys celebrating the special moments with the community at events such as ribbon-cutting ceremonies, groundbreakings, and the important anniversaries of businesses and non-profits. She also likes seeing a good idea implemented, such as the Movie in the Park and the award-winning stream restoration at Ivey Redmon Park.

With the issues of Covid, Dawn acknowledges that these are challenging times. She appreciates the efforts of everyone reaching out and the continuing involvement to encourage others. Dawn wants to remind us that there are brighter days ahead!

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