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Born and raised in Rocky Mount where he’s lived all his life, state Rep Jeff Collins at 63 years old is moving to Wake Forest to be near his three grandchildren.
“I ran for my grandchildren,” Collins said. “I wanted them to have opportunities and grow up in the North Carolina I grew up in.”
Collins, R-Nash, is nearing the end of his fourth and final term.
“It’s been my pleasure to serve the people of Nash and Franklin counties,” Collins said. “I think they recognize I’m just an average Joe.”
Collins never had a primary opponent and defeated a different Democratic challenger in each of his four elections, winning with 68 percent of the vote in 2016.
Collins was elected in 2010 and took office in 2011. His biggest accomplishment is legislation that led to lower utility bills for Rocky Mount residents.
“When I was running for the first time, I kept hearing there was no fix for the problem,” Collins said. “They were telling people to better insulate their houses. I said, ‘We’ve got to look at the price of electricity.’”
Collins co-chaired a House committee to look at the problem. The committee’s suggestions led to the sale of municipal power generator assets to Duke Energy, which meant an average 19 percent reduction in customer power bills.
“It’s what I wanted most to do,” Collins said. “And the thing I’m most proud of.”
Collins said he’s also proud of the local bill he sponsored that settled the decades-long financial dispute related to Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools.
“We were finally able to craft an agreement that let us set aside squabbling that had been going on 20 years,” Collins said.
The issue was important to Collins — he’s a product of Rocky Mount High School. Collins played on the school’s baseball and basketball teams.
“Phil Ford? He and I were co-captains together on the basketball team back in school,” Collins said. “Something a lot of folks don’t know: He was a great baseball player, too.”
As a Morehead Scholar, Collins received a degree in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill and worked for The Daily Tar Heel and the New Bern Sun Journal.
“Local newspapers are really important,” Collins said. “I hate to see a lot of the small papers being bought up by national chains. They’re in danger of losing touch with the local readers.”
Collins has been a primary sponsor of several bills to preserve printed legal notices in newspapers. He’s currently a sponsor of HB 693, a bill calling for a study of improvements to the state’s public records and open meetings law.
Collins taught math and coached sports for several years before becoming a financial consultant. He said when he joined the House that state finances were in dire straits — he didn’t know the state owed $2.8 billion to the federal government and had extremely underfunded its retirement plan.
Collins said it took the entire House and Senate, but the debt has been repaid, the state has a robust rainy day fund and taxes have been reduced.
Collins supports his hand-picked replacement, John Check, who is running in November’s general election.
“I’ve known him since we were teenagers,” Collins said. “He has my full confidence.”
Collins said he groomed Check for three years.
“I didn’t want to leave until I had a good candidate to take my place,” Collins said.