Kevin Foy

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Kevin Foy
Mayor of Chapel Hill
In office
December 3, 2001[1] – December 7, 2009
Preceded by Rosemary Waldorf
Succeeded by Mark Kleinschmidt
Personal details
Born (1956-01-28) January 28, 1956 (age 61)
Political party Democratic
Residence Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Alma mater Kenyon College
North Carolina Central University
Profession educator

Kevin C. Foy (born 1956) is an American politician who served as was Mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina from 2001-2009.

During his eight years in office, Foy focused on policies that have transformed Chapel Hill into a vibrant mid-sized city.[2] Chief among these is a fare-free transit system. With free buses, ridership grew from fewer than 3 million annual passengers to more than 7.5 million [3] — saving citizens money and freeing the town from the air pollution of all those cars not being used. He also directed investment into the redevelopment of the downtown and preserved the character and natural setting of the community by ensuring that new parks and schools have kept pace with the town’s growth.[4]

In June 2009, Foy’s efforts as mayor were rewarded by the U.S. Conference of Mayors which named Chapel Hill “America’s Most Livable City.”

In addition, Foy served as Chair of the North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition – the organization representing the state’s largest cities – and led the effort to pass the state’s first anti-gang legislation. The group’s agenda also includes strengthening the judicial system and reducing crime, identifying and implementing transportation options, and managing urban growth.

Foy left office in 2009 and was succeeded by Mark Kleinschmidt. He considered running for the Senate nomination in 2010.[5] Foy believes there has been a lack of leadership from North Carolina's Republican senators.[citation needed] Unlike the “Know Nothings” his ancestors confronted, Foy sees Republican Senator Richard Burr and his former colleague Elizabeth Dole as “Do Nothings,” who sat silently by and ignored the problems facing North Carolina.[citation needed] For example, efforts to provide light rail service to North Carolinians faltered and failed because the state’s senators refused to support it.[citation needed] Meanwhile, a light rail service in northern Virginia moved ahead because their senators got behind it.[citation needed]


Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on January 28, 1956, Kevin Charles Foy is the son of Andrew Knight and Merilyn Snyder Foy. The first Foys arrived in America in the 1840s. Like most of their Irish brethren they quickly joined the Democratic Party for practical reasons. The alternative was the Native American “Know Nothing” Party composed exclusively of Protestants who waged a crusade against Irish Catholic immigrants in the 1840 and 1850s. By 1860, the Know Nothings had been absorbed into the newly formed Republican Party.

Foy’s Irish ancestors first settled in Florida and from there moved in among a large Irish community of coal miners in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Two of his great uncles served as Democratic congressmen from Pennsylvania.

Foy’s father started and ran a small tool and die company in Cleveland. His mother and grandmother both worked as newspaper reporters. About the time when Kevin was nine years old, his parents bought a 140-acre (0.57 km2) farm in the heart of Holmes County, Ohio Amish country.

The family raised cattle, hogs, horses and chickens on the farm. Foy was a member of the 4-H Club, participating at both the local and state level. Foy won several 4-H awards. As a teenager he competed in livestock shows, presentations, crop management, and dairy judging.

With four young boys eventually facing the draft, his mother was passionately opposed to the war in Vietnam. She took them on a bus to Washington, D.C. to participate in the huge Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam in 1969. Foy recalls hostility toward their peace bus, encountered when they stopped along the way.

Foy had just finished his first year at Kenyon College when his mother was stricken with colon cancer and lung cancer. “I just could not go back to college,” he says.[citation needed] With three younger siblings at home and his mother terminally ill, Foy decided to spend what would have been his sophomore year at home with his family. His mother died that year.

Returning to Kenyon College, he became active in student government and met his future wife, Nancy Feder. Graduating cum laude with a B.A. in history in 1979, Foy went to work in the offices of Democratic state senators Jerry Stano and Charlie Butts. He staffed a committee that looked into charges of corruption in state contracts.

Foy had planned to go to law school in the fall of 1981, but the family faced yet another health crisis with his father’s multiple sclerosis. When a doctor told him he needed to move to a warmer climate, Kevin’s father moved the family to Hawaii. He and the family invested in a food processing plant, producing pizzas, tortillas and burritos for stores and restaurants.

Kevin and Nancy Feder were married in Hawaii in 1985. In 1989 they moved to Chapel Hill, where Nancy enrolled in the graduate program of library and information science at UNC. Foy started working as managing editor and then editor of the Environmental History Journal published by Duke University Press.

While working at the journal, Foy enrolled at the North Carolina Central University Law School, a historically black university. “The philosophy of the school is to help create more justice for everybody.”[citation needed] In his second year of law school, Foy was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery. The operation was a success and the cancer did not return.

In 1994, Foy graduated from law school and passed the bar. He set up practice in Chapel Hill and became a prominent figure in local and state politics.[citation needed] He volunteered to be a guardian ad litem to protect the interests of children caught up in the court system. Among other things, he successfully fought to remove children from homes where they suffered abuse.

Foy has been interested in environmental law from the beginning. He has continued to be involved in his law school alma mater, where he serves as assistant professor of environmental law. Some of his students have pursued careers in environmental law, including with the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Foy’s first case was representing neighbors pro bono against the Town of Chapel Hill, which had approved the construction of 13 houses in a flood plain. Just out of law school, he found himself arguing before the North Carolina Court of Appeals – and the property eventually became a town-owned park.

Foy continued to work with the local Sierra Club and was precinct chairman of the Democratic Party. In 1997, he was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council. In 2001, he was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, but then left office in 2009 and was succeeded by Mark Kleinschmidt.


  1. ^ Williams, Mike (2001-12-06). "Two alumni win mayoral elections". Campus Echo. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  2. ^ Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
  3. ^ Town of Chapel Hill
  4. ^ Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
  5. ^ Charlotte Observer “Etheridge is courted by national dems”

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