• 81°

Overman named Martin Co. Manager

WILLIAMSTON — Martin County government has a new manager.

The commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday night to hire Russell Overman, former town manager of Ahoskie.

Overman, 45, will replace Donnie Pittman, whom the commissioners fired in March.

Overman will also replace interim County Manager Jack Williford, who will continue working for the county as interim tax collector until a permanent replacement can be found.

Williford, who retired as Bertie’s County Manager, said he recommended Overman, whom he has known for 22 years.

Overman’s annual, starting salary will be $72,000, according to Williford. He will be re-evaluated in six months and may have an opportunity for a salary increase at that time, Williford said.

The salary range for the county manager position is $71,000 to $80,000, reported Clerk to the Board Linda Hardison.

Overman will have the same benefits as the previous county manager, Williford stated: a $300-per-month travel allowance and benefits identical to those enjoyed by other county employees.

Overman’s first day on the job will be Dec. 1.

Speaking of experience, Overman said he was finance officer in Hertford County for seven years.

He had served as town manager of Ahoskie since 1989.

Overman said he received a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in accounting from East Carolina University.

He attended the commissioners’ Wednesday night, regular monthly meeting with his wife, Lynn. The Overmans have been married for 23 1/2 years, Russell Overman said.

The couple has two children, a daughter, Betsy, and a son, West. The couple also has a 6-and-a-half-month-old granddaughter named Emma.

Overman is a native of Ahoskie. Under a policy recently approved by the commissioners, he will be required to live in Martin County. Williford said Overman must establish residency in the county by July 1, 2005.

Asked about the key differences between a town manager and a county manager, Overman replied, &uot;Well, if nothing else, it’s a larger organization.&uot;

He said the Town of Ahoskie has 60 employees, while Martin County has about 200 employees. (The county has about 180 employees, according to Elmo &uot;Butch&uot; Lilley, the commissioners’ chairman. Lilley wasn’t sure if that employee count was absolutely accurate, though, because employees have been added to Martin County Transit.)

&uot;You’ll be doing some of the same things,&uot; Overman stated, referring to his change in managerial duties. &uot;And certainly, there are differences between municipalities and counties, but the concept of general government is the same in both. So, I’ll just basically be returning to the county government, which is what I got my start in anyway.&uot;

Overman acknowledged being relieved of his duties as town manager of Ahoskie. Turnover on the Town Council led to the end of his tenure there, he explained.

Reached by telephone Thursday afternoon, Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding Overman’s departure.

Blackburn said she was voted into office last November. Asked about turnover on the five-member council, she said the council had gained one new member, but she added that another new member had replaced a council member who had resigned.

&uot;I just wish him the best,&uot; she said of Overman.

Asked what made Overman the best person for the job, Commissioner Tommy Bowen said, &uot;His interview went well. Each commissioner had a slate of questions and scored him in a numerical way. His interview and recommendations from other leaders, even in this county, that knew about him.&uot;

Asked what one of Overman’s first tasks might be, Bowen responded, &uot;Filling some empty slots that have been open awhile — the emergency manager, the tax collector.&uot;

Also, &uot;working with us on the school bond, leading us in the right direction on that,&uot; Bowen added.

The commissioners may vote to hold a referendum on a $15-million school-construction-and-renovation initiative early next year.

Just before the commissioners’ vote to hire Overman, Lilley told the audience the commissioners were &uot;very impressed&uot; with Overman during his interview.

Giving a nod to Williford, who is semi-retired but has been working part-time as interim manager, Lilley said, &uot;Jack has done an outstanding job.&uot;

That remark drew applause from the audience and the commissioners.

(Jonathan Clayborne serves as News Editor of the Washington (NC) Daily News. Permission was received from that publication to reprint this story.)