County hires George Wood
By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 4, 2014 1:49 PM
George Wood, who has served as Wayne County's interim manager since February, was sworn in Tuesday to an initial 18-month term as the county's full-time manager.
Commissioner Bill Pate, who chaired the interview committee with Commissioners Ray Mayo and Ed Cromartie, made the motion to hire Wood, who has 36 years of experience as a manager.
The motion was unanimously approved.
Wood was sworn into office by Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones.
There was no public discussion prior to Pate's motion. However, commissioners met in two closed sessions lasting nearly four hours on Tuesday "to discuss the qualifications of a potential county employee."
Pate said the committee, which also was responsible for recommending Wood, 62, for the interim post, met last Friday at Walnut Creek.
No interviews were conducted, Pate said.
"We sat down and went through the resumes," he said. "There were 32 of them. There were a number of them that didn't qualify. We didn't even rank them. Then there were some that were mid-stream and some that were close to the top tier -- maybe somebody we might could have lived with.
"But looking at them, you would have had to flown them in from across the country. No one had direct Wayne County experience so it was a clear choice. I had no idea when we hired him as interim manager that he would ever consider coming out of retirement."
Pate said he looked at thousands of resumes during his many years with the N.C. Employment Security Commission.
"I believe his was the best one," he said. "It is hard to top 36 years of experience, unless you are a retired county manager. Yet he is only 62, so he will probably give us four years."
The deadline for submitting a cover letter, resume, salary history and professional references for the office was May 20. Resumes came from as far as Washington state, Minnesota and Las Vegas. There were a couple from in-state as well, he said.
"He just became such a clear choice," Pate said of Wood. "I said, 'Guys, we have a proven leader here. He knows Wayne County. The staff loves him. I just can't see where it warrants spending any more taxpayers' dollars because some of these people were in Las Vegas and places like that. You would have to fly them in and put them up, pay for their airfare and all of that.'"
As interim manager, Wood had been paid $13,000 monthly, plus $600 for travel. As manager, he will be paid $175,000. That's $50,000 less than what former manager Lee Smith was being paid when he resigned in early February. Smith had 13 years of experience in the post.
Wood also will receive a vehicle allowance of $750 per month.
The employment agreement calls for Wood to be evaluated on an annual basis and considered for salary adjustments, and it gives him six months to establish residency in the county.
The county will provide medical insurance for Wood and his family at no cost. He will receive the same benefits as other county employees.
He would receive a severance pay equal to at least six months salary and benefits upon any termination of his employment by the county. If terminated for cause as set out by commissioners, he would not receive the severance package.
"When I first came I had no intention of staying, certainly had no intention of applying for the job," Wood said. "But I had several people encourage me multiple times to look at it. The more I got into it, the more I really enjoyed the projects we were working on. It is a great community. I think the board is good. They are solid and from a manager's standpoint that is a lot of what you looked for.
"I like working for boards that like to get things done. These folks certainly face a lot of issues in terms of facilities. But the more that I looked at it, and the more I was encouraged to apply for it, my wife and I talked about it and decided it was the right thing to do."
He said he was initially surprised when asked to consider the job full- time, but it became clear that the people asking him were serious.
Wood said he can't recall exactly when it was that he decided to apply.
"I guess it was just more of a gradual thing, and I started thinking about it," he said. "I don't know that I can point to any one particular event or thing that did it. It was just kind of a gradual process."
Wood had been part of a consultant firm with another retired county manager, but has left the business.
"I won't be doing anything on the side," he said. "I will be out of it. I look forward to continuing to move forward on the various projects that we have, improvements and the processes that we have."
The firm was originally hired by the county to help with the manager search and was to be paid $5,000.
Wood said that once he submitted his application the firm removed itself from the process and would not submit a bill to the county.
He said he did not look at any of the applications.
A native of Savannah, Ga., Wood's background is mostly in city government. Wood retired in June after serving five years as county manager in Lincoln County. He is the former city manager for Lancaster and Kingstree, S.C., Pinehurst and Kings Mountain, N.C., Cleveland, Tenn., and Statesboro, Ga.
Wood is a 1974 magna cum laude graduate from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor's degree in political science.
He received a master's degree in public administration with an urban management concentration in 1978 from the University of Kansas.
He and his wife of 34 years, Pamela, have an adult son, Andrew.
Wood is a member of the state Library Board of North Carolina and the Blue Ribbon Panel on the Future of Centralina Council of Governments in Charlotte.
He is a former member of the N.C. City and County Management Association, former treasurer and board member of Electricities of N.C., and former member of the Georgia City/County Management association and former chair of the Tennessee City Management Association's Legislative and Policy Committee.