Earlier this year, when the Rhino Times reported that Guilford County had made Dr. Iulia Vann the interim county health director at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Rhino stated that she had been given a “baptism by fire.”

The Rhino is going to use that phrase once again, because it’s very applicable once again. Guilford County has just made former Senior Budget and Management Analyst Alex Smith the interim county budget director.

Smith took over those duties on Tuesday, April 28 – the last day for former Guilford County Budget Director Michael Halford, who stepped down from that position to take a job as the assistant manager of Gaston County.

The reason Smith is facing a baptism by fire is that the county is now gearing up for the formation of the 2020-2021 budget at a time when revenues have fallen off the chart and the demand for many county services has increased. A county commissioner’s April 28 budget work session made it clear that, due to the coronavirus and an ambitious slate of multi-million dollar construction projects, it’s going to be a very difficult year to balance the county’s books.

Smith, pictured above (on the right) with the outgoing Halford, became the county’s senior budget analyst in May of 2017 and has played a key role in the budget formation ever since. He’s worked on the operating budget for departments and for other county-funded agencies and the county’s fire districts, and has worked a great deal on county budget forecasts that predict the revenue and expense numbers each year. He has also contributed greatly to the county’s 10-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP).

Smith played a lead role in developing the Guilford County Budget Department’s webpage.

Before coming to Guilford County government, Smith worked as a budget analyst for the City of Greensboro. Prior to that, he was with the NC Local Government Budget Association, where he helped plan conference sessions, worked on a strategic plan and served as an advocate for the association’s members.

An NC State graduate with a master’s degree in Public Administration, and an undergraduate degree in history, Smith has also worked for the City of Raleigh’s parks department as a project analyst.

Unlike most county officials, who coast out of Guilford County government on their last day, Halford, on his final day with the county, was the point guy at a county budget work session. When Halford mentioned at 1 p.m. that he would only be with the county three more hours, one commissioner pointed out that that only took Halford up to 4 p.m. – while the workday lasted until 5 p.m.

“I didn’t take lunch,” pointed out Halford, who indeed had worked right through lunch along with the commissioners and other county staff.