This week’s Hometown Hero, presented by Hendrick Southpoint, is Penny Rich, the outgoing chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Rich was nominated by three of the people who have worked most closely with her over the last eight months — Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver.

On top of her normal duties, Rich is being recognized for her work to help navigate Orange County through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You know, it’s really been an incredible year in terms of the workload that we’ve all had to shoulder, but especially Penny as the chair of the Board of County Commissioners,” said Lavelle.

Rich first started as an elected official on the OWASA board, then on the Chapel Hill Town Council, before spending the last eight years on the Board of County Commissioners. Her work with the Board of County Commissioners was critical during the pandemic when officials issued emergency stay-at-home orders, curfews, and more.

“That was also noted by [Governor Roy Cooper] that Orange County had been a leader in that,” said Weaver.

All three mayors praised Rich for her work behind the scenes as well, working to coordinate agencies, municipal services and organizations to ensure that everyone was on the same page.

“It was just an incredible amount of work behind the scenes that I’m not sure people could really quite ever understand,” said Weaver. “I think honestly, that kind of thing helps save lives.”

Rich will step down from the Board of County Commissioners in December, but has been working until the end of her tenure to ensure the health and safety of Orange County citizens. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute today – every single dollar matters.