New assistant county manager touts Currituck's, Iredell's similarities
By William F. West
Friday, September 7, 2018
CURRITUCK — Experience and personability were two key factors in Ben Stikeleather’s hiring as Currituck County’s new assistant county manager.
That’s according to Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon, who selected Stikeleather from among the three finalists considered for the new position.
“We felt like he was the best qualified candidate,” Scanlon said Tuesday, noting Stikeleather’s long experience with local government, familiarity with North Carolina rules and regulations, particularly how they apply to county government, and management experience.
“He's also very personable,” Scanlon said.
Currituck officials announced Stikeleather’s hiring last week. The 35-year-old director of strategic planning and communications manager for Iredell County will report to work in Currituck on Oct. 1. He’ll be paid $91,832 annually, according to Currituck officials.
Stikeleather (pronounced just like it sounds: “Stike Leather”) said in a phone interview this week he’s both excited and humbled to have been hired as Currituck’s assistant county manager.
Asked why he thinks he got the job, Stikeleather said that in addition to his experience — he’s worked in a variety of roles for Iredell County over the past 12 years — he hopes it’s because his county interviewers liked what they heard from him during his two rounds of interviews.
“I believe in being an honest, genuine person,” Stikeleather said. “And so I'd like to think that they saw the real me in the interview and felt that that would be a good fit for Currituck County.”
Stikeleather himself seems to think he’s a good fit for Currituck. He noted what he described as the similarities between the county and the Piedmont region where he grew up and soon will be leaving.
Like Iredell, which is home to Lake Norman, Currituck has a dynamic, water-based tourism industry, Stikeleather said. Both Iredell and Currituck also have strong agricultural communities, he said.
Iredell and Currituck also are less than a hour's drive from big cities. Iredell's county seat, Statesville, is only 42 miles from Charlotte. Currituck’s courthouse is only about 37 miles from Norfolk, Virginia.
“I like that kind of similarity — and the quality of life seems just like it's top-notch out there,” Stikeleather said, referring to Currituck. “And so it seemed like a good place for the family to relocate to.”
Stikeleather and his wife have three children, ages 7, 4, and 10 months.
Scanlon said his plan is for Stikeleather to learn as much as he can about Currituck's departments, staff and geography. Stikeleather then will be assigned projects that are either ongoing or that need to get underway.
“Specifically, he needs to get up to speed with Currituck Station,” Scanlon said, referring to the county’s mammoth economic development site northwest of Moyock.
Other projects in the pipeline for Currituck are the proposed public safety center and Moyock Community Park.
“All these projects will be ongoing beyond the remainder of my tenure, so he'll need to get up to speed to complete them,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon was referring to his announcement in May that he plans to retire next summer.
Prompted by Scanlon’s announcement, which apparently caught them by surprise, commissioners asked Scanlon to include funding for an assistant county manager in this year’s county budget. Their thinking was that hiring an assistant county manager now would give that person time to work with Scanlon before he retires.
Interviewed Monday, Commissioner Bob White called Stikeleather’s hiring a good thing for the county.
“That's what we're looking for, someone who really will fill gaps that we saw and help us down the road,” White said.
Asked if Stikeleather will be in a position to take over as Currituck’s manager after Scanlon retires, White suggested commissioners have considered the possibility.
“He would definitely be a stand-in until such time as we found another manager,” White said.
If Stikeleather turns out to be a great fit for the county manager’s job, he likely would be hired for it, White said.
Asked Tuesday if he’ll seek the county manager’s job after Scanlon's retirement, Stikeleather suggested that’s not something he’s focused on now.
“I've always wanted to be a county manager, but it's kind early to say one way or the other right now,” he said. “I'd like to get in there and prove that I can be a good assistant county manager before I start thinking about the next step.”