by Connie Leinbach
It’s a new day in Hyde County and islander Bill Rich, as the newly appointed county manager is eager to help. Rich, who began officially on March 1, has hit the ground running, attending many meetings, including all three ferry toll hearings, since he began.
“So far I love it,” he says with his ready smile. “There’s something new every minute. I love the pace of it. ” Rich, who lives on Ocracoke with his wife Jennifer, will spend four days a week on the mainland where he will stay at his family farm near the Pungo River. He will be on Ocracoke Friday through Sunday.
Rich, a Hyde County native, a 1968 graduate of Belhaven High School and of UNC in 1972, has spent his career as a real estate manager and developer in Hyde County and all over Virginia and eastern North Carolina. He is the proprietor of The Rich Company, which has offices in Elizabeth City and Washington, and Rich and his brothers Bob and Cy own Rich Brothers Farms in Hyde County.
“I’ve never had to apply for a job in my life,” he says with a laugh when asked about his resume. “I had to craft a resume. Rich expects to use his four decades in business to better the county.
“I like putting projects together,” Rich says about his real estate career. “I got to put together zoning, infrastructure, helping families…” As such, he had to attend many city or county commissioners’ meetings to get approvals for his projects. So he knows how governments work.
In Elizabeth City, The Rich Company has changed that city’s landscape with several waterfront and commercial projects since 1975. Rich Brothers Farm used to manage almost 100,000 acres of farm and timber land in Hyde County.
“We farmed it until it was ready to be leased out,” he said.
At the same time, Rich served as president and overseer of the Mattamuskeet Drainage Association with controlled the pumping and drainage of more than 60,000 acres of land.
Among his other projects, Rich owned and operated Agriworld Farm Management, which managed thousands of acres of farm and timber land for several German, Austrian and Japanese owners in Eastern North Carolina. He also developed and managed the Woodlake Golf and Country Club community outside Pinehurst.
Rich’s experience helping families come to agreements over land bequests should be useful in dealing with the conflicting viewpoints that often arise in the world of local government.
But as a local native, he already has an edge. “I know most of the people in Hyde County,” he says.
On Ocracoke, where Rich has vacationed all his life and has had property since 2007, Rich helped secure the land that will lead to a baseball field for local youths. He has been chairman of the Ocracoke Planning Board, and though he had to give up that position, he will still participate as the county manager.
“We need to find more money other than through taxes,” he says about Hyde County. More sales tax revenues and more jobs are some goals, and he’s confident in his department heads.
“I’m very impressed with our employees,” he says, of which he has 150.
Rich is excited about all of the challenges ahead.
“They got someone who understands the business side of government,” Rich says about his appointment. “It’s good for me and I hope for the people.”