Time for leadership

Published 7:18 am Thursday, October 30, 2008

By Staff
A faltering national economy and the need for effective leadership are providing great challenges for Hyde County leaders. Within the past decade, there has been a high rate of turnover when it comes to commissioners and county managers.
During last week’s Hyde County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Sharon P. Spencer, a candidate for the board, voiced her frustration with the board’s recent decision to hire Carl Classen as county manager and give him a two-year contract. Spencer told the board that a contract for the manager should not have been offered before the new commissioners take office Dec. 1.
Many people in the county have voiced opposition to the $96,000 annual salary that was approved for Classen, who had been serving as interim county manager. No doubt Classen is among the top-paid professionals in the county. The job does carry a tremendous amount of responsibility. In addition to managing an annual budget that is a little less than $13 million, the manager is expected to make economic development happen, make sure that every department in county government is effective, answer the complaints of residents and keep expenditures low and revenues high.
The county has had trouble keeping a county manger during the past decade. Cliff Swindell, the first county manager, stayed on the job for about 20 years. Jeff Credle, another local man, served as county manager for several years. Since that time, the county manager has served an average of about 18 months.
Hyde County cries out for strong, effective leadership for the tough times. For decades, the communities within the county have been divided and at odds with one another. Hyde County is filled with wonderful, resourceful people. However, unless people are willing to unite to work for the good of the whole county, poverty and other problems facing the county cannot be solved.
Hyde County commissioners began their search for a permanent manager a couple of months ago. On Oct. 6, four of the five commissioners voted to give the two-year contract to Classen. Only Commissioner Alice G. Armstrong voted against the two-year contract. Board Chairman Charles Ray Spencer praised Classen for bringing professional leadership to the county at a crucial time.
Only time will tell if the board’s decision was wise or unwise.
A tight job market and a sagging economy will produce many challenges for Classen and the board. It will be interesting to see what Spencer and Anson Byrd — they face no opposition in next week’s election — bring to the table when they become commissioners in December.
Last month, Golden LEAF presented $1,715,000 to the county for economic-development projects. The effects of those projects are expected to be felt in the county during the next 40 years. Classen, commissioners and county residents must be committed to making sure that happens.