Cabagnot to lead hometown anti-poverty agency

Published 12:10 am Saturday, July 1, 2017

SALISBURY — Rocky Cabagnot left town after his 1992 graduation from Salisbury High to go to college, earn a law degree and work to improve communities.

Now he is bringing that expertise home.

Cabagnot, 42, is the new executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency, an anti-poverty nonprofit headquartered at 1300 W. Bank St.

He replaces board member and former chairman Pete Kennedy, who has been interim director for some time.

Before starting the job last week, Cabagnot most recently worked at the Charlotte School of Law, where he was an assistant professor. He also developed the Community Economic Development Program and Legal Clinic at the law school.

“We are very pleased to announce this appointment,” said Dr. Donna White-Cook, the agency’s board chair, in a press release. “Rocky will bring leadership and creativity to the SRCAA’s programs and a deep sense of commitment to serving the low-income families and individuals in our coverage area.”

Through the pro bono legal clinic Cabagnot led in Charlotte, law students provided legal services to nonprofits, affordable housing developers, neighborhood/community groups, and entrepreneurs.

When that job ended in January, Cabagnot said, he reached out to David Post — a member of City Council and the SRCAA board — to ask about the executive director’s job. Post encouraged him to apply.

Cabagnot said the job is a good fit.

“My entire background has been in public interest law,” he said, with a focus on legal services and community economic development. “Now I feel really good. I can focus all my talents and energies on my own community.”

Cabagnot was living in Salisbury before he applied. After getting his undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he earned his law degree and a masters in mass communication from the University of Florida. He remained in Florida, serving as the directing attorney of the Revitalize Our Communities Project at Legal Services of North Florida in Tallahassee.

Cabagnot said he decided several years ago it was time to pack it up and return to North Carolina. His parents, Mamerto and Dr. Jesusa Cabagnot, still live in Salisbury.

He joined the Charlotte School of Law, eventually moving back to his hometown and commuting to Charlotte. He and his wife, Leslie, and 9-year-old stepson Daniel Ellis live at The Crescent.

Cabagnot takes over an agency with around 250 employees. SRCAA runs the Head Start program in five counties. It also offers workforce development and a family services program to help people become self-sufficient.

“Our goal is to become more engaged in the community,” Cabagnot said.

He said the agency has a good team in its staff and he believes they will continue to provide high quality, results-oriented programs and services that meet the needs of people in poverty.

“This agency, through aggressive community collaboration, will help individuals obtain the ability to provide for themselves and their families and to become leaders in their communities,” he said in the press release.

“I believe that with the right support, especially community support, every individual has the power to succeed!”