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County manager to retire in March

090817rodneybunch

P/justin falls-----rodney bunch. seen here 04/03/06

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Pasquotank County Manager Rodney Bunch announced Tuesday that he intends to retire within the next several months.

Bunch, 68, presented his retirement letter to county commissioners during their finance committee meeting on Tuesday. Bunch, who has worked nearly 30 years for the county, got too choked up to read the letter himself, so he allowed Commissioner Lloyd Griffin to read it aloud.

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your county manager since May 1, 2013,” Griffin read to commissioners.

The letter continues that Bunch will not renew his employment contract when it expires on March 1, 2018, and he is giving commissioners advance notice to allow them to start the process of finding his successor.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Bunch said he felt it was time to retire.

“I've been doing this for quite a while,” he said, adding that he and his wife, Lynne — a retired former president of College of The Albemarle — are both looking forward “to traveling and spending more time at the Outer Banks.”

Bunch, formerly Pasquotank County's planning director and then its assistant county manager, took over as interim county manager in 2013 following the retirement of then-County Manager Randy Keaton, who took a job in Virginia.

Bunch became the county’s permanent manager in March 2014. Commissioners said at the time that pressing issues, such as leasing the former Albemarle Hospital to Sentara Healthcare, delayed their making Bunch the permanent manager sooner.

In interviews Wednesday, commissioners praised Bunch's job performance and said it will be a challenge finding his successor.

Board Vice Chairman Bill Sterritt called Bunch a “tremendous asset” to the county, adding “we knew this was coming, but it's still sad to see him go.”

Commissioner Jeff Dixon said he “most definitely” wanted to see Bunch stay on as manager. Recalling he was Pasquotank's commission chairman when Bunch became manager, Dixon said his long service and experience with the county made him the best, obvious choice to replace Keaton.

Commissioner Bettie Parker praised Bunch as a likable, approachable person and credited him for seeing the county through several major initiatives. In addition to work on the hospital lease, Bunch guided the county through employee unrest over a lack of raises in 2015, the permitting and development of the Amazon Wind Farm US East project, and avoidance of disruption to water service following a lawsuit with Elizabeth City, Parker noted.

Griffin similarly credited Bunch for providing quality service to the county for many years, including his work overseeing a number of rezonings while planning director.

The commissioners interviewed Wednesday also agreed that Pasquotank should conduct an external national search for its next county manager.

“You have to set the bar high,” Sterritt said, adding he'd prefer to see someone with significant government experience — though not necessarily as a county manager — and who holds a master's degree in public administration. Degrees in law and accounting would also be good, he added.

Dixon added that, based on when Bunch plans to retire, the next manager will take over right as the county starts working on its 2018-19 budget. Dixon said the next manager needs to exceptionally strong on preparing and executing a county budget. Other duties are more easily executed when the budget is properly handled, he said.

Griffin similarly said much will be expected of the next manager, including reliability.

“There are lots of things you look for in a manager,” he said. “Primarily, you're looking for stability.”

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