From video games to finance: How Jacob Weavil became Albemarle’s youngest department head

Jacob Weavil has been Albemarle’s director of finance for about a year now, following the retirement of Colleen Conroy, who led the department for two decades.

At 32, he is the youngest department head in the city. He views this as a distinct opportunity to continue growing and learning from his more experienced peers.

“Jake brings a strong combination of experience and perspective to our city’s Finance Department,” City Manager Michael Ferris said. “He and his team have continued to build upon an already strong foundation to raise the level of service to our city.”

But despite his success at such a young age, establishing himself in the finance world was not always his intended path. In fact, it wasn’t even on his radar as a high school kid thinking about what to do with his life.

“I couldn’t have imagined where life has taken me, but I’m very, very thankful for it,” he said.

A love for video games

Weavil had a passion for video games while growing up in the small town of Wallburg in Davidson County. He enjoyed playing Super Mario and Star Fox on the classic Nintendo 64 and Pokemon on his Game Boy console. As he got older, he became more involved with role playing games such as World of Warcraft.

“I guess you could say the video games I have been interested in the most were always the adventure, story-driven type games,” he said.

As he was preparing for college in 2008, Weavil and several of his friends decided they wanted to convert their passion for gaming into a full-fledged career.

“I’ve always loved reading and playing video games and I never had the aptitude to become a writer so I thought, well, I’ll do video game development,” he said.

At the time, there were only a few options for pursuing a career in video game development, he said. One was moving to Georgia and enrolling at DeVry University, and the other was enrolling in Stanly Community College’s two-year Simulation and Game Development program. Weavil and his friends chose the latter.

“We thought it was a great opportunity,” he said.

Though he knew very little about the county, Weavil headed to Albemarle with the dream still very much alive about becoming a video game designer.

Designing his own mobile app

Once at the school, he received hands-on training on programming, 3D modeling, animation and world-building.

“Everything I learned there have been things I’ve carried over into my adult life,” he said. “I thought it was great value for the two years I spent there.”

Upon graduation in 2011, Weavil, a few other graduates and a SCC professor began developing their first video game. They decided to start with an app. It made sense as the burgeoning field of mobile apps was easier to gain access into as opposed to designing games for well-established consoles like PlayStation and Xbox.

After about nine months, they created a free app called Skylar’s Cosmic Adventure that people could download onto their iPhones and iPads. It was a multi-level program where people navigated a rocket around various obstacles such as planets and black holes while trying to collect as many stars as possible.

“The difficulty of it came from the fact that the different size planets had different gravitational pulls so if you didn’t come at it right, it would just pull you into the planet and you had to start the level over,” Weavil said.

The hope was the app would serve as a launching pad for Weavil, giving him opportunities to develop more advanced video games. In reality, though the app received a lot of downloads, it was a difficult job market for video game developers and so the group members went their separate ways.

Pivoting toward another career 

While Weavil was enrolled at SCC, he worked at Rite-Aid, initially starting as a shift supervisor before eventually becoming assistant store manager. It was during this time that he discovered he had a knack for customer service and enjoyed interacting with the public.

“I had found when I was going to college and doing the creative stuff, that was energizing for me, but then I also found that in the work world (at Rite Aid), I was actually really good at that and it was motivating me as well,” he said. “I was really focused on trying to balance those two aspects.”

Once he came to the realization that a career in the video game world was not likely to pan out, he decided to pivot to working in a customer-service oriented field.

“What it boils down to is I found out I enjoy being more creative as a pastime, as a way for me to decompress and relax, but what keeps me driven on a day-to-day basis is that more professional career,” he said.

After spending several years at Rite Aid, where he often worked weekends and swing shifts, Weavil wanted a more consistent 9-to-5 job. He also realized that, though he had always imagined himself working in a large city, he had begun to set up roots in Albemarle.

He began dating his now-wife Lindsey, who informed him in 2013 about an opening at First Bank in Richfield as a bank teller. He took the position and gradually worked his way up the ladder until he became a loan processor at a First Bank location in Charlotte. He also received his business degree from Pfeiffer University.

In 2015, he began work at New Dominion Bank in Charlotte, where he took on the role of commercial relationship specialist and really began to take off.

“That’s where I really sunk my teeth on working with large portfolios,” he said, noting he managed a $45 million loan commercial loan portfolio.

He really enjoyed working in finance because, similar to designing video games, it was all about problem solving.

“When you’re looking at numbers, there’s always a story behind that and you have to connect all the dots and come up with a decision to be made,” he said.

Coming back home

By this time, Weavil had made major moves in his personal life. He and Lindsey got married, had a child and bought a house in Richfield, so it became much harder commuting three hours each day to Charlotte. He was running out of new podcasts to listen to and “there’s only so many times you can listen to the same radio show,” he joked.

As great as it was working for New Dominion, Weavil knew he needed to find a new job in Stanly.

“It was getting to the point where I appreciated everything I had learned in Charlotte, but I was trying to look for more opportunities closer to home,” he said. “I really wanted to have stability and be able to put my family first.”

The opportunity presented itself in the form of a vacant position within Albemarle’s finance department and he pounced on it. In August 2018, he began working for the city as assistant finance director. He worked under Conroy for about three years before she stepped down in early 2021.

From his first interview with Conroy, he knew she was looking for someone who could potentially become her successor. He applied for the director position, hopeful that his previous experience as assistant director would make him an attractive candidate.

“I was extremely confident because I felt that Colleen had really given me all the tools that I needed and I was just ready and prepared to show the city, especially the city manager, that I was ready,” he said.

Weavil became the city’s finance director in May 2021. Since then, he’s played a key role in helping Albemarle remain financially sound despite all the uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacob Weavil gives a financial presentation during a workshop session earlier this year. Photo courtesy of David Fath.

“Having previously served as the assistant finance director for the city, Jake demonstrated he had the right personality and work ethic to help lead the city through this period of rapid growth,” Ferris said.

For Weavil, the promotion has been a blessing.

“It’s been everything that I could have imagined and hoped for and more,” he said. “This first year has really been a fantastic crash course in where we think the future is going to go.”

With more work and parental responsibilities, he has a 5-year-old son and 13-year-old stepdaughter, Weavil still enjoys video games, but at this stage in his life he’s learned to pare it back. He has a PlayStation 5, for example, but he also has the more children-friendly Nintendo Switch.

Jacob Weavil with his family, from left, stepdaughter London, son Kyler and wife Lindsey. (Contributed)

“It’s less about the games I want to play and more about the games that we can try and share with the kids,” he said.

In trying to reduce the amount of time they are on electronics, the family has recently shifted to playing more board games.

“I still do play video games on my own for myself,” he added, “but like everything in life, you just balance that around all your other responsibilities first.”