Polk County Commissioner Chairman defends interim manager

Published 5:46pm Thursday, April 10, 2014

by Leah Justice
Polk County Commissioner Chairman Ted Owens took a few minutes to close the Monday, April 7 meeting to defend interim county manager Marche Pittman and his qualifications.
Owens said Pittman has been criticized since taking the interim county manager position and it’s not fair to him or anyone else in the county.
“If Marche Pittman had never run for the clerk of court under the Republican ticket, some of you would never be complaining about him being the interim county manager,” Owens said.
Owens said he made his statements Monday night in response to a lady who recently criticized Pittman over a health issue.
Owens was referring to statements made by resident Nancy Pemberton, who during the county’s March 17 meeting, made public comments regarding a car accident Pittman had in downtown Columbus after suffering from a seizure.
Owens said when Pemberton started criticizing Pittman during the meeting he couldn’t believe a person could stoop that low.
“When the lady began criticizing interim county manager Marche Pittman concerning his health issue, it took me a minute to realize what she was saying because I didn’t believe that a person would stoop that low even for political reasons,” Owens said. “Then it hit me personally. You see, I have a brother that was born in 1950 with that same health condition. Plus it was in the polio day and he was born crippled.”
Owens said he remembers trips to Spartanburg Regional in his family’s old car rushing down Hwy. 176 when his brother, Charles, would have an attack. He said the attacks always seemed to come in the dead of night and he remembers his mother in those car trips fighting to keep Charles from choking to death. Although doctors said Owens’ brother wouldn’t make it to age 17, he is now almost 64 years old, Owens said, and has been in a nursing home for more than 20 years.
“So you see, the attack on Marche became very personal,” Owens said. “Saying Marche was arrogant to come off his medicine was foolish and insensitive. He was following his doctor’s orders.”
Owens also said he is thankful Pittman was driving the county’s Ford SUV when the accident occurred because if he were driving one of the older cars it could have been a different story. Owens said Pittman has been criticized over driving the new SUV as well as his pay. The county purchased the new SUV, Owens said, because it was time to get a new car and the car is not just for Pittman, but for any county employee to be used on trips, particularly trips to Raleigh.
And on the question of why commissioners didn’t advertise for an interim county manager before hiring Pittman, Owens said former county manager Ryan Whitson told the board on Nov. 19, 2012 he was leaving for active military duty on Nov. 28, 2012.
“That was just nine days,” Owens said. “Nine days didn’t give the county much time to advertise for an interim. The last interim county manager the county employed from outside the county cost the county over $100,000 per year and that was back in 2004.”
When hiring for an interim manager, Owens said commissioners felt the county needed someone who knew the county, knew the employees and knew the people of the county.
Owens said commissioners are going to advertise and run the search fairly for a permanent county manager after work is complete on the budget. He also said he isn’t sure if Pittman plans to apply for the job or not.
Owens reviewed Pittman’s qualifications for the job, including that Pittman has lived in the county more than 34 years and has almost 20 years of county government experience, including in law enforcement, technology and management.
“He has seen numerous projects to completion, including designing and managing construction of two 911 call centers, implementing an IT department from scratch, a 911 addressing project of most of Polk County, an emergency services radio communications project and the technology aspects of several new constructions and renovations of county buildings,” said Owens. “Marche also has 12 years of experience acting as a district court magistrate for the N.C. Court System in District 29B.”
Pittman is a graduate of the Polk County School system and holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science from Gardner-Webb University and a master’s degree in Innovation and Management of Information Technology from Champlain College in Burlington, Vt, Owens said. He is a LGFCU, Leading for Results Fellow from the UNC School of Government and has completed the UNC School of Government’s municipal and county administration course, Owens continued.
Pittman is also active on the E-Polk (PANGAEA) board of directors, serves on the Smoky Mountain Center’s Board of Directors, has been awarded a service award by the Tryon Fire Department and an award for his work in removing long distance charges for calls that start and end in the boundaries of Polk County by the Polk County Board of Commissioners, according to Owens.
Owens also mentioned that all five commissioners voted to employ Pittman as interim manager.
He said Pittman is “homegrown” and compared him to another Polk County native, Polk County School Superintendent Bill Miller. Owens said Miller is one of the county’s best examples of someone who grew up here and came back to work, just as Pittman can be for the county if given the chance.
“And we’ve got one of the best school systems in this whole state and you can go anywhere and people will tell you that. And the reason is because (Miller) knew Polk County and knew Polk County people and knew how to work with people, ok,” Owens said. “And I think we’ve got the same situation here (with Pittman) if people will let it happen.”

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