The Heart of Kernersville: Neal Stockton
By NJ Clausen
Strength, compassion, integrity… these are just a few of the words to describe a man well respected by the community. Please enjoy getting to know our retired Chief of Police, Neal Stockton.
Born and raised in Kernersville, it was a small community as Neal was growing up, however it was also the hub for groceries and recreation for a ten-mile area. The parades were especially a big deal, drawing people from all over. Neal remembers that at grocery stores and barbers, you knew everyone, and everyone said hello. Talking of his school days, Neal remembers walking to school and how he would know who lived in every house he passed, and they would know him and his family. Neal would talk to the different people who were out and always knew that if he needed anything he could ask. He feels that this valued experience shaped his goal to be a servant to Kernersville.
There were many farmers in Kernersville, and at 9 years of age he was working after school and on weekends at different farms. When he was 14, he remembers a statement unique to his heart when his Daddy told him, “In a couple of years you are going to be 16, you are going to be driving, and you are going to want a car. If you are going to get a car like you want, then you are going to get a job.” That summer Neal procured a job with the Town of Kernersville in the Public Works Department. He smiled as he described the application process, as it was only later that he realized how unique it was conducted. He handed his completed application to the Supervisor, who handed Neal a knife and told him to cut the vines off a nearby fence while he reviewed the application. Neal worked on the vines for about an hour or so, then he was called back into the office and told that he had the job. He realizes now that they were watching to see how he would work and what kind of work ethic he possessed.
When not working, Neal loved to play baseball. He was a center fielder the year Kernersville won the National Southeast Championship in the early 1970’s, playing teams from Texas, Florida, Alabama, and other areas. Neal remembers how the community would all come out to cheer and welcome back the athletes.
Neal’s Daddy was one of three law enforcement officers as he was growing up. The old station had an open window by the jail cells, and people would ride to the police department and boost up to see who was incarcerated, not only to satisfy curiosity but to also see what was going on in the community. Everyone knew and cared about what was going on in Kernersville. Neal grew up admiring and respecting the way his father and the other officers policed the community, making it feel balanced. Citizens knew that they had someone they could count on and trust to keep the community safe. With such stellar examples, it is not surprising that Neal wanted to be a police officer… even though his Daddy wanted him to be a veterinarian. Although he worked for a time in a veterinarian office, which he enjoyed, Neal knew that it was just a job and not a passion.
After graduating from high school, Neal went to Forsyth Tech and earned his associates degree, then went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Gardner-Webb University. After, he was asked if he would be interested in filling a communication job that came open for the midnight shift in Kernersville Police Department. Throughout time, there were 3 different Sergeants, and Neal was able to work with and learn various aspects from each of them. When added to all he learned from his father, it enabled him to form his own personality. Working for the town at that time, Neal had 6 days on duty, with Tuesday off. By the time Neal was hired on as a police officer he had worked through all the weekends. In 1984 Neal was appointed as Chief of Police, a position he held until his retirement in 2009. When he did have time off, Neal enjoyed hunting, fishing, and the tranquility offered by nature. When asked what Neal would consider necessary traits to succeed in this field, he replied “That’s easy…you have to be a people person and have a peace keeping attitude. You need a commanding presence without being overbearing.” He went on to add that this is NOT Hollywood, and while quick actions may be required, it is not always a volatile situation. Despite the growth and changes over the years, Neal feels that the ease and caring he felt as a child is still present in Kernersville today. What you see is what you get.
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