County attorney retires; search begins for replacement


Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

After more than 10 years of service to Macon County, and nearly 40 years practicing law in North Carolina, Macon County Attorney Chester Jones is set to retire at the end of October. 

“It has been an honor and privilege to work alongside Chester Jones during my tenure as county manager,” said County Manager Derek Roland. “Chester’s extensive knowledge of local government law, combined with his love for Macon County has played a critical role in navigating this organization throughout the past decade. More impressive than Chester’s knowledge or his legal ability however, is who he is as a person.”

Chester Jones has significant experience in the field of Local Government Law. In addition to his current and most recent role serving Macon County, Jones formerly served as the county attorney for Clay County, North Carolina, for approximately 11 years. He also formerly represented Graham County, North Carolina, as its county attorney for approximately 10 years and has assisted in representing the town of Franklin during his tenure. 

“One of the many things Chester taught me early on is when an issue presents itself, you do not view the issue as a ‘problem’ you view it as an ‘opportunity to excel,’” said Roland. “Very soon after that, I realized that county managers and county attorneys are presented with ‘opportunities to excel’ on a daily basis.  Chester approached every situation with this positive attitude and the ultimate goal of protecting the interests of Macon County. He never looked at anything as a problem, but instead as an opportunity to make the county a better place.”    

Roland noted that Chester’s time serving Macon County has helped the county lead by example across the entire state of North Carolina. 

“I have always maintained that in any meeting or group discussion pertaining to local government law, if Chester Jones was in attendance he was the smartest person in the room, whether it was a group of 10 people or 1,000 people,” said Roland. “Chester’s knowledge and his ability to articulate this knowledge on paper and through public speaking earned him the full faith and confidence of the Board of Commissioners as well as the Macon County employees. This excellent working relationship has been paramount to the many successes this organization has enjoyed over the last decade.”

With Jones’ retirement, commissioners met last week to discuss his replacement. During a special called meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners last week, in a split vote, commissioners voted to begin contract negotiations with Franklin lawyer, Fred Jones, to serve as the next county attorney. The board met in closed session for nearly two hours before taking a motion on the new hire. 

Commissioner Karl Gillespie, who attended the meeting via phone due to a family emergency, and Commissioner Paul Higdon both voted against the motion, however, no discussion regarding the reason of their votes occurred. Neither Gillespie or Higdon have answered follow up questions regarding their votes against beginning discussions with Fred Jones. 

The day following the commissioner’s vote, Fred Jones said that he met with Macon County Manager Derek Roland and County Attorney Chester Jones and is honored to be considered for the position. 

“We had a great meeting this morning and I am grateful for the opportunity to begin discussions with the county for this position,” said Fred Jones. “Serving as the county attorney is something my father did for a long time and I am excited about the possibility of following in his footsteps.”

Prior to the more than 12 years Chester Jones served Macon County as county attorney, Fred Jones’ father Ritchie also worked in that capacity from 1969-2005.  

However, on Wednesday afternoon, Fred Jones, told The Macon County News that he was withdrawing his name from consideration. 

Last week’s vote was to begin contract negotiations with Fred Jones regarding the position, with a final vote to take place during the Oct. 13 meeting of the Board of Commissioners. Now that plan has changed. As of press time, no other names had been submitted.

Roland said that the October meeting will also serve as a farewell to Chester and the service he has provided the residents of Macon County. 

“While I will always remember Chester Jones as a great attorney, he will have a lasting impact on my life because he was a great man,” said Roland. “He placed a premium on doing what was right, and never once in the seven years we worked together did I see him compromise or even waiver from the high ethical standards he had set for himself.  He is one of the most honest, trustworthy and respectful men I have ever met.  I wish Chester nothing but the best in his retirement and will be forever grateful for the positive impact he has had on this organization and me as well, both as a manager and as a person.”