By Richard Taylor
Hyde County Manager Bill Rich was surprised when he was named manager of the year by the Albemarle Commission at the organization’s awards banquet Nov. 7 in Currituck.
Based in Hertford and serving a 10-county area, the commission serves to improve lives and local governments.
“I was absolutely dumbfounded when it was announced,” Rich said at the Dec. 4 county commissioners meeting.
In her nomination form, Kris Noble, assistant county manager, listed Rich’s many accomplishments during his five-year tenure with the county, including his being the cornerstone of the N.C. DOT passenger ferry project to serve Ocracoke.
Rich developed that concept and considers it one of his greatest accomplishments, Noble said. He also is proud of the Hyde County Revolving Loan Fund he revamped. Rich grew that fund to new heights with the addition of Golden Leaf Foundation grant funding, she said.
Rich has also lent his experience to the UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill.
“His local government experience and out-of-the-box thinking will surely benefit the (school) in its endeavors to serve municipalities across the state,” Noble wrote. “Bill Rich is respected among his staff, his constituency, by local elected officials, and across the great state of North Carolina as a trustworthy and dedicated partner that cares about his community, Hyde County and the folks that live and even visit here.”
Cathy Davison, Albemarle Commission executive director, said in an interview that the committee reviewing the applicants noted how Rich has gone “above and beyond” in his advocacy for the region, especially during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and this year’s power outage in late July.
“He’s been a good partner with the Albemarle Commission,” she said.
“It’s a nice note to go out on,” Rich added at the meeting as the commissioners learned that he will retire as county manager June 30.
However, he would continue to work for county as the county economic development officer as an independent contractor with no benefits and at half his current salary of $97,000.
Although the board agreed to the concept Rich’s plan at its Dec. 4 meeting and Noble as the new manager beginning July 1, a formal decision is pending. Her initial one-year contract is being negotiated, Rich said.
“We’ve been really blessed having him here for the last five years,” Noble said in an interview. “I’ve seen several managers come and go over the years, and it’s really good to have a homegrown person who understands both the agriculture interests on the mainland and commercial fishing on the island.”
In other business, the commissioners learned that the Ocracoke segment of the new Dare/Hyde/Tyrell emergency dispatch system is complete and went live Dec. 6.
“We’ve been working on this for three years,” Emergency Services Director Justin Gibbs said.
The new system — the first three-county system of its kind in the state — replaces an 800 MHz system which had coverage issues and would not allow all departments to talk to each other.
Gibbs said the new system came in under budget and puts all users and repeaters on one VHF frequency.
In other matters, the commissioners reappointed islander Liz Hotchkiss to a second five-year term on the Beaufort Hyde Martin (BHM) Regional Library board of trustees at Commissioner Tom Pahl’s request.
Sherry Stotesberry, formerly with Beaufort County Community College, was appointed Hyde’s new Veterans Service officer.