CURRITUCK — Currituck County Manager Ben Stikeleather told county commissioners Friday that he is leaving for a job in the private sector.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Payment confirmed Stikeleather’s departure Wednesday morning. Stikeleather’s last day on the job is not known but a press release from the county said he begins his new job on Oct. 1

“It took us all by surprise,” Payment said.

Stikeleather said working in the private sector will bring new challenges and a different work-life balance.

“Currituck County has been a wonderful place to be the county manager and is a community with a bright future, solid leadership, and a workforce that is second to none,” Stikeleather said in a press release. “I appreciate the opportunity given to me by the Board of Commissioners to lead Currituck County, and I appreciate the way the community has embraced me and my family in our short time here.”

County commissioners will meet in closed session Monday to begin planning a search for a new county manager.

“We will discuss the manager and how to move forward,” Payment said. “We will have plan of action on how to move forward regarding the county manager’s position and what we do in the interim.’’

Stikeleather is reportedly taking a position with Corolla Light Resort on the Currituck Outer Banks. Two messages left for Stikeleather at his office Wednesday about his future plans were not returned.

“I’ve heard that is his destination after he leaves the county,” Payment said. “But I don’t know any of the details yet. (Stikeleather) has 15 years or so of government service and he wants to get in the private sector.”

Stikeleather was named assistant Currituck County manager in October 2018 and became the county’s manager in July 2019.

Stikeleather spent 12 years working for Iredell County and he was working as its director of strategic planning and communications manager when he was hired by Currituck.

“This was his first go-around as a county manager and he came into a very active county with a lot going on,” Payment said. “In his first role as a county manager, I think (Stikeleather) did a good job with everything.”

Commissioner Owen Etheridge described Stikeleather as a hands-on manager who “dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s.”

“Stikeleather was the third county manager I have worked with and I found him to be very competent,” Etheridge said. “It’s obvious Ben really cares for Currituck County and its citizens because of the recommendations he brought to us and the advice he gave to us.”

Etheridge was also surprised by Stikeleather’s resignation but understands his reason for leaving.

“As I told Ben, he is leaving so that he will have an opportunity to spend more time with his young family and have greater financial security,” Etheridge said. “Nobody can blame somebody for wanting to do that. Taking care of his family is his first obligation.”

A search for a new county manager usually takes months and Payment said Currituck could appoint an interim manager during the search process.

“It depends on the path of the board after we meet Monday night,” Payment said. “We just have to discuss our options and see how we want to move forward.”

Etheridge supports the county appointing an interim manager during the search process.

“We have to provide continuity and leadership,” Etheridge said. “County employees have to know who is steering the ship.”

Payment expects there will be no shortage of candidates for the permanent manager’s position.

“If you want a position that has a lot going on, yes, I would say it would be an attractive job,” Payment said. “It does take a lot of time because there is a lot going on. If someone is dedicated to this type of atmosphere, it would be an attractive job.”

The county’s press release said that during his tenure, Stikeleather led Currituck County through Hurricanes Dorian and Isaias and guided the county’s response throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Capital projects such as Shingle Landing Park and the Maritime Museum in Historic Corolla Park were constructed and opened to the public during his tenure. Construction of the Public Safety Center will also be completed prior to his departure. In addition, projects to expand and renovate Moyock Elementary School and Moyock Middle School are in the design phase.