By Dwight Sparks
The Clemmons Courier
What senior in the West Forsyth High Class of 1977 would have predicted Dale Folwell would run for state office 35 years into the future? More likely, few would have even known the student who checked out of class every morning to work at a Clemmons motorcycle shop as part of a non-college tract curriculum.
“I’m probably the most unlikely person to be running for Lieutenant Governor considering where I was in 1977,” he said. He was much closer to the bottom of his class than the top academically, but he did pick up a treasure of knowledge that has served him well through life.
“I’ve been surrounded by people who taught me important lessons in life,” he said. “The smartest person in the room is the one who knows what they don’t know. I got here through my hands. That’s what’s wrong with our country. A lot of the joy of achievement that other generations had came from working with their hands and their backs which affected their hearts and changed their minds about the fact that in this country where you start in life has no bearing on where you end up — in either direction.”
He’s in a five-way race for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor, risking his political status on a most uncertain outcome that could make him the first West grad to hold statewide office.
He’s faced worse odds. Academically, he said he was somewhere near the bottom of his class at West.
“I left school everyday at 10 o’clock. Back then there wasn’t much rigor in the curriculum. I had a second shift job at Coca-Cola and two part time jobs on top of that,” he recalled.
His family didn’t emphasize college, and he didn’t expect to attend.
It wasn’t until he was 21 with a mortgage that someone pushed him to go to college if he was going to support his family. Working long hours on the side, he finished UNC-Greensboro in less than four years, got his masters degree in accounting and passed the CPA exam on the first sitting.
“I’m sure I had the lowest GPA at UNC-G because I was working so hard, but I may have been the first to pass all four parts of the exam on the first sitting,” he said.
He didn’t play sports at West. His major extra-curricular activity was ROTC. He worked at United Motorcycle Sales, then beside Ronni’s, but he was soaking up information along the way.
“I attribute not getting in trouble in the ‘70s, which was easy to do, to motorcycles, motorcycling and motorcyclists.” He still rides big motorcycles and still races dirt bikes.
After a career in accounting, he turned to politics, eventually finding his way to Raleigh as a legislator representing Forsyth County, now serving as the second highest-ranking Republican in the House.
“I wake up every morning thinking of what kind of intellectual risk I can take, what kind of political risk I can take to get people back to work,” he said. “I have focused on four separate categories — education, government efficiency, crime and public safety.”
He has cast more than 4,000 votes and sponsored dozens of bills that have received support among members of both political parties. On the campaign trail, he unfurls pages of lists of bills he has sponsored.
He now serves as Speaker Pro Tem, but he said he can do more in the Lieutenant Governor’s role to tackle the problems of a bloated, inefficient government and put the state’s citizens back to work.
“For all our lives we have seen people divide this state by east and west, Republican and Democrat, city-country, black-white, liberal-conservative. But we’re staring down the barrel of debt that is going to prevent us from doing the things we need to do in this state. There’s a dam of disgust in North Carolina, and the gap between the people and government has never been wider. Somebody has to fix it, and that’s what I do.
“I’ve never forgotten who the employers are — the voters and taxpayers. I never wanted to come home and say I couldn’t get anything done because I was in the minority. The problem with government is the politicians don’t want to go home. They don’t want to face the voters at the gas pumps, in the grocery store.”
He meets the public as a routine.
That’s where he has often gotten the inspiration for many of the bills he has sponsored, getting the General Assembly to approve 29 major pieces of legislation.
He documents who gave him the inspiration for various bills.