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Chappell claims Gates reins

GATESVILLE – Don’t let Toby Chappell’s current Durham address fool you…he’s a small town boy at heart.

The 31-year-old Vance County native was hired on Oct. 6 as the new Gates County Manager. His first day on the job in Gatesville is scheduled for Oct. 27.

“This will not be a culture shock for me coming to a small, rural area,” said Chappell during a telephone interview after being approved by the Gates County Board of Commissioners.

He continued, “I’m completely comfortable in a rural environment. Just because I now live in Durham and work in Raleigh, I know what it’s like in farm communities. I was raised in Kittrell (a small town in southern Vance County). It was so small that it didn’t have a formal town government.”

Currently employed as a Field Operations Sergeant with the Raleigh Police Department, Chappell said it has been his dream to become involved in an administrative role within county or municipal government. He said that dream began upon working on his Masters Degree in Public Administration at NC State University

“I’ve been a leader within the Raleigh Police Department; as a matter of fact I’m the youngest supervisor in the department,” Chappell noted. “While working on my Masters, I had the opportunity to develop those leadership skills further by studying under (now retired) Raleigh Assistant City Manager Carolyn Carter. I learned a lot from her; she opened my eyes to a lot of things, including the impact a person can make in a non-elected position. Ever since then I’ve geared myself towards this position.”

Gates County Board of Commissioners Chairman J.S. Pierce Jr. said despite Chappell’s young age, he possesses strong leadership skills.

“I was very impressed with his leadership qualities during our interviews with him,” Pierce said. “It’s hard to find young men with the leadership experience that he brings to the table.”

Even though Chappell lacks experience in county government, Pierce said he believed the law enforcement background the new manager has will more than fill any voids until Chappell becomes more comfortable with his job.

“He’s very aggressive, and I mean that in a good way,” Pierce noted. “Toby is a take-charge type of guy and seems extremely interested in not only working for us, but making Gates County a better place for all.”

Upon graduating from Appalachian State University in December of 1998, Chappell immediately went to work as a Raleigh Police Officer. Since that time he has risen in rank, first as a Corporal in Internal Affairs and later to his present position of Field Operations Sergeant.

To prepare for this next step, Chappell has performed graduate work in the fields of Geographic Information Systems, Management Systems, Public Policy Analysis, Research Methods, Budgetary Processes, Team Building for Public Managers, Intergovernmental Relations, Fund Development and Applied Political Economics.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the people of Gates County,” Chappell said. “I have some ideas of things I would like to see changed, but the vast majority of my initial exposure to the county will be getting to know the lay of the land and its people. With that knowledge I will be able to get a feel for where we need to go, determine more effective and productive ways of operating a county government and phasing in those ideas.”

Chappell and his wife, Caroline (a South Carolina native), have no children, but are the proud owners of a pet English bulldog, “Otis.”

Meanwhile, current Interim Gates County Manager Justin Hembree said he has enjoyed his short stay in Gates County.

“I’ll stick around for a short while after Toby arrives to help him with the transition,” Hembree said.

Chappell becomes the sixth manager or interim manager in Gates County over a two-year period. Additionally, former Bertie County Manager John Ed Whitehurst, even though he did not take on a manager’s title, helped the county develop its current fiscal year budget prior to Hembree’s arrival in July.

Hembree came on board after retired Perquimans County Manager Paul Gregory Jr., who had stepped in on an interim basis, left Gates County in late May citing health reasons.

Melinda Hoggard was formally named as Gates County Manager in January of this year after serving a brief time as the interim. However, she left Gates County in late April after her husband accepted a job in Wilmington.

Hoggard was employed with Gates County government in October of 2004 at which time she came onboard as the county’s finance officer, working with then county manager Mark Biberdorf and later with Tim Russell. Biberdorf left Gates County at the end of 2006, replaced by Russell who resigned as interim manager in September of last year.