Usually, when people are introduced, it’s done at the beginning of a gathering.
However, Guilford County officials waited until the end of the Board of Commissioners’ Thursday, Sept. 1 meeting to officially introduce brand new Guilford County Attorney Andrea Leslie-Fite to the public.
She replaces former Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne, who retired at the end of 2021 after over a decade with Guilford County. In the interim, Guilford County Chief Deputy Attorney Matt Mason has led the department.
The board hired Leslie-Fite on Thursday, June 16, however, she officially started the job with Guilford County in mid-August.
Leslie-Fite told the Rhino Times she got a chuckle out of a June Rhino article that suggested she might get a nice long beach vacation due to the hiatus.
“I was working,” she said. “I gave 60-day notice.”
Leslie-Fite was working as the Shelby city attorney when Guilford County stole her away, much to the chagrin of the city manager there. Before that, she worked as a senior assistant city attorney for Charlotte. She also previously served as an assistant county attorney for Cleveland County. Shelby is the county seat of Cleveland County.
Being a city or county attorney can be a very difficult job because, rather than just having one boss, the attorney generally works at the pleasure of a board of commissioners or a city council – which means, in Guilford County, the county attorney has nine bosses who very often disagree on things.
At the September 1 meeting, Leslie-Fite said that she’d been working for Guilford County for 18 days and everyone has been extremely welcoming and the experience has solidified her belief that this was the right move for her.
“I’m grateful to be here,” she said.
She also had kind words for Mason and his hard work during the interim.
“Matt is extremely talented, extremely knowledgeable, and I just wanted to thank him publicly,” she said.
Leslie-Fite also, of course, thanked the county commissioners.
Both Leslie-Fite and the county commissioners were all smiles during the introductions and the meeting that night was a short one with no dicey legal issues to unpack. So, the new county attorney was spared a baptism by fire – unlike Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann, who’s first day on the job was in the week when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Guilford County.
The commissioners did ask Leslie-Fite a couple of questions at one point regarding proper public notice required before the sale of county property.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said at the meeting that this was an historic hiring.
He said, “It’s not lost on me, and I’m quite sure this board, that Ms. Leslie-Fite is the first African-American to sit in that seat as our county attorney. And I think, probably the second only lady to sit in that position – so history is being made right here in Guilford County. Let’s give her a round of applause.”
She was greeted with very hearty applause from the attendees in the commissioners’ meeting room on the second floor of the Old Guilford County Court House.
The other county commissioners also offered her kind words of welcome.