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Russell resigns

GATESVILLE – Unless a last-minute reprieve is granted by state officials, Gates County will soon lose its county manager.

Tim Russell has officially tendered his resignation to the Gates County Board of Commissioners. His last day on the job is August 14.

However, there is a chance Russell will remain on board with the county. That hinges on a ruling from the state’s Local Government Commission (LGC).

“I really do not want to leave Gates County, but I may be forced to do so” said Russell who has managed the county’s business since January of 2006.

“I want to stay because we’ve got a lot of things going on right now.”

Russell added that the rumor mill is overflowing with the reasons behind his decision to leave.

“One of the most interesting pieces of gossip is that I quit because I asked for a raise and the board of commissioners refused,” he said. “That isn’t true at all.”

Rather, Russell’s departure is tied to new regulations set in place by the LGC.

According to Russell, the LGC, on June 19, sent out a memo stating any person employed within a local government unit that works more than 1,000 hours per year must participate in the LGC’s retirement system.

“I can’t take part in that because I’m already a part of the LGC’s retirement system,” Russell said in reference to his August, 2005 retirement as county manager of Rowan County. “I had 35 years within county government and I do not want to give-up that retirement package.”

The LGC allows retired personnel to return to work on a part-time, interim or contracted basis as long as their annual pay does not exceed 50 percent of their previous yearly salary. Russell, who formed his own contracted services company following retirement and then worked out a deal to become Gates County Manager, did not exceed the 50 percent maximum in annual salary.

“Everything was fine on that end of our deal, it was this new 1,000 hours deal that placed my position in jeopardy,” Russell said. “This new regulation not only affects me, but other local government retirees who decided to return to work.”

Based upon his work since Jan. 1, Russell said he would reach the 1,000-hour threshold by the early part of September.

“Based on this new regulation, I cannot work past early September because that’s when I will reach 1,000 hours for the year,” he noted. “With that in mind, I was forced to give the commissioners my resignation effective Aug. 14 due to the fact that my contract with the county requires a 30-day notice of me leaving the position.”

Russell said there is a chance that he will stay with Gates County. He has asked the LGC for a ruling on when the 1,000-hour regulation became effective n on June 19 when the memo was sent or retroactive to Jan. 1. He also wants a ruling on whether or not he can volunteer his time to Gates County and it not count against the 1,000-hour threshold.

“I’m waiting on the LGC to respond to those issues,” Russell said. “I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve had a couple of job offers. I have to consider my future if those rulings do not come back in my favor.”

Russell came to Gates County in 2006 following the December, 2005 resignation of then county manager Mark E. Biberdorf, who left after accepting a position as town manager in Fletcher, NC.