Directors in Guilford County government seem to have pretty good jobs with great pay and terrific benefits.
However, you’d never guess that based on the last 12 months when an unprecedented number of department directors and other top county employees have headed for the exits to take jobs elsewhere or to “spend more time with their family.”
In the past year, Guilford County has seen the departure of former County Manager Marty Lawing, Deputy County Manager Clarence Grier, Information Technology Director Hemant Desai, Guilford County Finance Director Harley Will, Health and Human Services Director Heather Skeens, Facilities Director Dan Durham, Emergency Management Director Don Campbell, Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne and some directors of smaller departments.
In addition to those, some other high-ranking employees who assisted those directors have also left.
All the departures have been – publicly at least – congenial. However, those who’ve noted the great exodus of county government experience in 2021 are starting to ask what’s behind it.
One factor that may have played a role is a big change in county leadership at the very top. Many of the directors who left this year were put in place in Guilford County government by a Republican-led Board of Commissioners which controlled the county from 2012 to 2020. The board selected Lawing to run the county in 2013 and Lawing hired many directors who have served since then.
In December of 2020, the nature of Guilford County government changed radically when the Board of Commissioners became a Democratic-majority board run by Chairman Skip Alston.
The county commissioners do not publicly discuss personnel matters for legal reasons. However, there’s no question that in some cases part of the reason employees left was because he or she didn’t see eye to eye with current county leadership.
In other cases, employees were ready for retirement or a job change and their departure may have been part of the massive wave of resignations that has been taking place across the country during the pandemic.
In most cases, the employees go quietly – so quietly, in fact, that you can hear a mouse scurry by. Some sections of the county’s webpage still list some former directors as current directors, and, often, reporters find out about the departure when they show up at a meeting and a stranger is giving a report from a department. Upon asking who it is, the reporters are informed that the person is the new department director.