Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne is stepping down from that job at the end of the year. 

Payne made the announcement at the Thursday, Nov. 18 Board of Commissioners meeting before he thanked the commissioners for their support over the past dozen years. Two days earlier, Payne had informed the employees in the county’s legal department – along with other select county officials – of his decision which took many by complete surprise.

Payne said he felt it was the right time for him to be making the exit after 12 years. 

Payne has achieved the somewhat amazing accomplishment of having served 12 times longer than the previous six county attorneys combined.  (Before Payne took the job with Guilford County, the county burned through six different county attorneys in less than a year.)

The fact that the county had a half dozen county attorneys in the year before Payne arrived is an indication of just how difficult that job is.  Guilford County attorneys work directly for the Board of Commissioners – which means they have nine bosses who span the political spectrum and often have widely varying views of what should be done.  When Payne took the job with Guilford County, he had 11 bosses because the redistricting a decade ago hadn’t yet shrunk the board by two.

He came to Guilford County in October of 2009 after serving as the Johnston County Attorney in Smithfield for 13 years.

Payne said after the Nov. 17 meeting that he plans to remain in Greensboro and he added that he will be available for “call back” part-time work if the county needs his services in 2022.  

Payne said he recently looked at the years he’d put into government work and found that he did now qualify for a full 30 years.  He said he discussed the matter first with Guilford County Human Resources Department, and, after thinking about it and getting his questions answered, he decided this would be a good time to step down.

 He said he’d now like to spend more time with his family and also like to do things like perhaps go to the Final Four in 2022, which is in the New Orleans Superdome.  Payne, who attended UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergraduate and then went to law school there as well, is a big Tarheel fan.