An Interview with Jacques Gilbert, Mayor of Apex

(The Triangle Trend) — Make no mistake, Jacques Gilbert loves Apex. 

His passion for the historic Wake County town is palpable. This proud, native son with humble beginnings in the projects at 601 First Street, has called Apex home for the balance of his life. So, it should come as no surprise when he says he loves this town. 

What might be a surprise to some, though, is that he loves community service even more. When he retired from the Apex Police Department (APD) in April of 2019, after 29 years of faithful public service, Captain Gilbert (he rose through the ranks to second in command), knew he wasn’t done serving the community. He said his decision to join the APD was the best decision he ever made. What was his next move? 

Six months later, Gilbert was elected mayor of the town he cares so much about. He jokes that had he known what 2020 would bring, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so quick to move on the opportunity. Of course, for a man who is called to serve, works well with people, genuinely wants to help people and make a difference, it’s reasonable to say that had Jacques Gilbert known what was on the horizon in 2020, he would have doubled down. 

Gilbert was quick to note that there is no blueprint for how to navigate a pandemic. As COVID-19 took over the narrative in the early Spring of 2020, he recalls how one day the town council and staff struggled with a looming meeting. Do we shut down? Do we march forward? Mayor Gilbert said the people of Apex need to see leadership, cautious but courageous. 

“They need to see we are in control,” he said. 

So, they had the meeting and never stopped having meetings. The meetings evolved, with safety measures incorporated and best practices adopted, but they never stopped. 

And, when the Black Lives Matter movement took center stage back in May/June and demanded a response from the man in charge, Gilbert knew that he had to cultivate communication between all sides to maintain credibility and trust in the community. His years on the APD helped him navigate a sensitive and potentially explosive and divisive issue. Gilbert maintained a position of neutrality and respect and kept the discussion open with all sides. 

The peaceful protest march down Salem Street featured members of the APD, BLM organizers, and local Apex government—Mayor Gilbert included. Not everyone agreed with this approach, which was expected. In the end, Gilbert erred on the side of inclusion and transparency and for this, he has no regrets. 

When Jacques Gilbert started his run for mayor of Apex back in the spring of 2019, he used a catchphrase to garner support and interest. It went something like this, “We are going to build like we’ve never built before…yeah, build relationships.” 

As Mayor Gilbert maintains, it’s always been about building relationships across the community and ensuring Apex residents trust their community leaders, whether in the police force or in local government. He wants the people of Apex to feel empowered to communicate their needs. He wants them engaged and he wants them energized. 

You see, for Jacques Gilbert, when you are called to serve, you follow that call by putting the community first. Despite the myriad of unprecedented challenges faced during his first year in office, Gilbert says the future looks bright for Apex and he’s ready. With his door always open, he welcomes community engagement and honest discourse because that’s how you build meaningful and impactful relationships. Jacques Gilbert loves this town and it shows.

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