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Williams hired as HC Manager

WINTON – Hertford County has a new county manager.

Following a four-month search, Loria D. Williams of Warren County was the choice of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners.

She replaces Don Craft, the county's 15-year veteran manager who, in March, suddenly retired, citing health reasons.

Williams comes to Hertford County with eight years of managerial experience. She served as the Warren County Manager from March 1997 until her dismissal 10 days ago where, on a 3-2 vote, the Warren Commissioners ended what she described as a "strained relationship."

&uot;The Warren County Commissioners choose to seek new leadership,&uot; said Williams. &uot;It is the nature of the business as a county manager because it is a politically appointed job.&uot;

She continued, "The board was operating under a split vote after two new commissioners were elected in 2002 and those commissioners wanted new leadership in the county manager position. It is difficult to overcome those types of things.&uot;

According to Matthew Milliken, a reporter for the Daily Dispatch in Henderson, Williams experienced several well-documented clashes with the Warren Commissioners, especially over the past several months.

One of those clashes resulted in her dismissal n along with that of her father, Robert Dunston, Warren County's Maintenance Director n on Feb. 7. Those dismissals were linked to ongoing allegations concerning the improper use of jail inmate labor. An SBI probe cleared the father and daughter, who were reinstated on March 21.

One month later, Warren officials required Williams to repay the county for compensatory time she took in violation of her employment contract. She accepted that ruling, but said it was a practice among top administrators in Warren County, including the former manager, prior to her taking the job.

Other run-ins with the Warren governing body followed, including one involving Emergency Medical Services and pay raises for county employees.

While some were critical of her work in Warren County, she does have a good track record in other regards. Williams was at the forefront of a $19 million project for a water and sewer system in the county. She was also praised for her skills to help orchestrate a $1.8 million law enforcement center as well as providing leadership for three other major projects n a digital tax mapping plan, the approval of the county's first capital improvement plan and the county's first structured hiring policy.

&uot;I believe my experience working and living in a rural setting lends itself to the job in Hertford County,&uot; Williams said.

&uot;I plan to implement the vision of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners and to work with county leaders to move the county forward,&uot; Williams continued. &uot;I need to learn more about the internal operations (of the county government), but Warren and Hertford County share similar socio-economic issues.&uot;

The board contacted Williams on July 30 concerning the county manager position. The board interviewed Williams on Tuesday, August 2 and again on Friday, August 5 before offering her the position.

&uot;Ms. Williams made a good impression on the board and answered all of our questions favorably,&uot; Board Chairman DuPont Davis said. &uot;The board unanimously approved her hiring.&uot;

Williams began her tenure with Hertford County on Monday.

&uot;Interim County Manager John E. Whitehurst will be leaving immediately, but the board really appreciates the work Mr. Whitehurst did for Hertford County,&uot; Davis emphasized.

Williams, a native of Warren County, graduated from Louisburg College in 1985.

Following graduation, Williams began her career in county government with the Warren County Economic Development Commission and served as the Acting Clerk to the Board of Commissioners for two years.

Williams left Warren County to work in the private sector for Ketchum Communications in Washington, DC. After several years in the nation’s capital, Williams returned to Warren County and in 1991 began working with Emergency Services and was later appointed as Deputy Clerk to the Board of Commissioners. In 1993 Williams became the assistant to the county manager and was appointed as Clerk to the Board of Commissioners.

Williams held those positions until 1997 when she was unanimously appointed county manager by the Warren County Commissioners.

In her new job, Williams will have an initial annual salary of $75,000 and will be evaluated for a salary increase after six months of employment.

Williams must establish residency in Hertford County within six months and will be reimbursed for relocation expenses up to $5,000.

Williams is the mother of three children n Chase, an incoming freshman at East Carolina University, Chelsea, a rising high school freshman, and Charleston, who will be entering the fourth grade.

Williams said she is committed to the youth of the community, actively supporting educational programs and library services that promote success among young people. She also served as youth director in her church for many years.

(Roanoke-Chowan Editor Cal Bryant contributed to this story.)