Wayne County Manager George Wood Tuesday morning announced that he will retire effective Dec. 31.

Wood, who will turn 66 in February, has served as county manager since June of 2014 after first serving as interim manager since February of that year.

Wood announced his retirement at the end of Wayne County commissioners' Tuesday morning session.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery jokingly asked if the retirement was on the agenda, and Chairman Bill Pate said that it was out of order.

In a more serious tone, Pate said he appreciated all that Wood had done for the county.

Commissioners were running behind schedule and did not discuss how they would proceed with finding a replacement for Wood.

As soon as the meeting ended they went into closed session to interview candidates for assistant county attorney.

"I appreciate the confidence that you have shown in me in this position and have enjoyed working with all of you," Wood said.

He told commissioners they can be proud of the many improvements in county government that have taken place during their tenure.

Commissioners have addressed facility needs in the county and for public schools and improved the operational efficiency of county departments, Wood said.

The county also has improved its working relationship with the school board, Wayne Community College, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the municipalities, especially Goldsboro, he said.

"You have positioned this county well for future economic development," Wood said. "I have particularly enjoyed working with the management staff of Wayne County. I have never worked with a more dedicated group of public servants."

Wood said he had wanted to announce his retirement well in advance so that commissioners would have plenty of time to ensure there is a manager and assistant manager in place.

Craig Honeycutt is the assistant county manager.

"The county has numerous projects underway and there is simply no way that one person can manage this entire organization," Wood said. "My plans are to continue to manage these various projects, along with Assistant County Manager Craig Honeycutt, and prepare for as smooth a transition in county managers as possible."

A native of Savannah, Ga., Wood's background is mostly in city government. He served 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.

He plans to return to Lincoln County.

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 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.