Joel Cline Harbinson was born February 18, 1954. He is the son of the late Rev. Cline W. Harbinson (1912-1987) and Madeline Campbell Harbinson (1916-2005), and he is the father of two sons, Justin, born July 28, 1985, and Jarrett, born April 11, 1987. Joel is married to Connie Barrett Harbinson and is the stepfather of Alexandria Brinkley Corbett. In the past, Joel has served as both a deacon and an elder in the Taylorsville Presbyterian Church. Connie is a 2007 graduate of Catawba Valley Community College with high honors, a 2008 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene with distinction, and a 2012 graduate of A.T. Still University with a Master of Public Health. She is a registered dental hygienist. Justin is a 2007 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in English with highest honors in creative writing, and he is a 2010 graduate of the University of San Francisco with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. He is a high school English teacher. Alexandria is a 2009 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in psychology. Jarrett received a certificate from Alexander Central High School in 2009, having been educated by the TEACCH model for autistic students, whose center is located in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Medicine.
Joel attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated in 1977 with an A.B. degree and from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law in 1979 with a J.D. He has been self-employed since 1979 as a criminal, domestic, and personal injury attorney in Taylorsville. In addition, Joel is a certified mediator in superior court cases, receiving accreditation from the N.C. Dispute Resolution Commission in 1998, and he is a certified arbitrator in district court cases.
Joel is the former President of the 22nd Judicial District Bar Association (1987-1988, 1999-2000), the N.C. Bar Association, the N.C. Advocates for Justice, and the Phi Delta Phi international legal fraternity. He has received an AV Preeminent® Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, giving him the highest possible ranking by his fellow attorneys and judges in both competence and ethics. He has also been recognized as one of the Outstanding Lawyers in America and is listed on the Bar Registry of Preeminent Lawyers. In 2015, he was recognized by the American Institute of DUI/DWI Attorneys as one of the 10 Best Attorneys for North Carolina for Client Satisfaction in the practice area of DUI/DWI Law.
A devoted alumnus of UNC and a sports enthusiast, Joel is a current member of the UNC Educational Foundation, Inc. (a Big Ram since 1989), the UNC School of Law Alumni Association, and he is a Life Member of the UNC General Alumni Association. He is a past member of the Morehead Scholarship Selection Committee (1979-2002) and the Hickory Metro Sports Commission (2002). A 1972 graduate of Alexander Central High School, Joel was a member of the school's first football team in 1970, which also won the Northwestern Conference championship by defeating Marion 9-6 with a field goal by Harbinson late in the game. In addition to being a placekicker, Joel was a running back who rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored over 100 points his senior season, leading the Northwestern Conference in scoring. On October 4, 1971, he scored the first touchdown in the inaugural game played in Cougar Stadium. As a senior, Harbinson was named all-conference in both football as a running back and baseball as a shortstop. Forty years later in 2011, he helped lead the successful effort to re-name the facility "Glenn G. Wilson Field at Cougar Stadium" in honor of his high school football coach. In the last year of Taylorsville High School in 1970, Joel was an all-conference shortstop on the school's conference championship baseball team. Later, he won the first county tennis tournament in both men's singles and doubles. In 1985, Joel was selected by the Alexander County Recreation Department as one of several "living legends" in the history of Alexander County Sports.
On the local level, Joel is a co-founder and board member of the Bob Gryder Scholarship Foundation, Inc. and also served in the past as a member of the Board of Directors of the Alexander County Chamber of Commerce (1993-1996).
Since Joel's younger son, Jarrett, is autistic, Joel has been active in many organizations promoting mental health in particular and healthcare in general. He has served on the Board of Directors of the N.C. Autism Society (1992-1996) and was appointed by Governor Jim Hunt to serve on the Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities (1997-1999). Joel is the former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Alexander Community Hospital (1993-1997). His law office also sponsored a team of disabled children in the Walk n' Roll Baseball League in Catawba County.
Active in politics, Joel is the former Alexander County Attorney (1982-1986, 1992-1994), Taylorsville Town Attorney (1987-1989), and Alexander County School Board Attorney (1981-1998, 2013-present). Also, Joel is a former member of the Alexander County Board of Elections (1992), the former Chairman of the Alexander County Democratic Party (2003), and a former member of the N.C. Democratic Party State Executive Committee (2002-2003).
On November 3, 1998, Joel was elected to the office of Board of County Commissioners of Alexander County (the first attorney ever to be elected county commissioner in the history of the county), where he has served as Chairman (1998-1999), (2001-2002), and Vice-Chairman (2000-2001). In his first term as a commissioner, Joel served on the Executive Board of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments and the Western North Carolina Local Government Caucus in the capacity as Chairman of the Boards and Commissions Subcommittee. Although he was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election in November 2002, Joel was elected by the Alexander County Board of Commissioners on June 16, 2003 to serve the unexpired term of David Odom and served until the fall of 2004.
During his term as a county commissioner from 1998 to 2002, Joel and his fellow commissioners were instrumental in bringing about progress in Alexander County.
Joel was integral to Alexander County in that he:
- Converted the junior high schools to middle schools and moved the 9th grade to ACHS with the first major renovation to the high school in 30 years ($8.8 million);
- Built a new Ellendale Elementary School ($6.4 million);
- Built a total of 32 new classrooms at West Middle (11), East Middle (11), Sugar Loaf (6), and Stony Point (4) at a cost of $3.95 million;
- Established the first permanent community college in the county with the construction of Catawba Valley Community College - Alexander Center ($1.65 million);
- Worked with the state to build the Alexander Correctional Institution, which is the largest state-funded construction project, outside of road construction, in the history of western North Carolina ($80 million in State funds, $1 million in local funds);
- Worked with the state to build a new juvenile detention center using only state funds ($2.8 million);
- Built Dusty Ridge Park in the Wittenburg community, which is the first multi-purpose county recreational facility in southern Alexander County;
- Obtained over $2 million in state and federal grants to run waterlines in the Little River, Three Forks, Rink Dam Road, Millersville, and Liledoun areas;
- Instituted county-wide zoning for the first time in the history of the county to protect residential areas and promote commercial development;
- Increased local teacher supplements from 1 percent to 6 percent;
- Increased local funding for education over 40 percent (more than 10 percent per year);
- Built a new animal shelter at the National Guard Armory;
- Worked with Charter Communications to create the Local Government Channel so that commission meetings could be broadcast;
- Re-structured the Solid Waste enterprise fund such that citizens could dispose of trash free of charge if they recycled;
- Brokered an arrangement in which the bankrupt Alexander Community Hospital re-opened as Frye Regional Medical Center - Alexander Campus;
- During each year in office, Alexander County was recognized by the conservative John Locke Foundation as having the lowest local tax burden on its citizens of all 100 North Carolina counties.
In 2005 and 2006, Joel created and established "Ask a Divorce Lawyer" (askadivorcelawyer.com), a web site allowing consumers to purchase answers to basic legal questions in the area of domestic law for a nominal charge and "Ask a Traffic Lawyer" (askatrafficlawyer.com), a web site allowing customers to have their traffic tickets handled online.
In 2007, Joel created and drafted the bill, which later became law, which split the 22nd Judicial District, establishing a new District 22A (made up of Alexander and Iredell counties) and a new District 22B (made up of Davie and Davidson counties), which improved the efficiency of the local judicial system and guaranteed Alexander County two permanent district court judge positions.
Joel now spends most of his time outside of work caring for his autistic son, Jarrett, who resides with him full-time. His only other activities include attending UNC-Chapel Hill sporting events and quarterly meetings of the Hickory Cigar Club.
Mr. Harbinson concentrates his practice in the areas of criminal law and traffic offenses, family law, personal injury and wrongful death, and medical malpractice.