End of an era
JACKSON – Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins may be retiring, but the legacy of his hard work and service is continues.
On Thursday, Northampton County officials, department heads, friends and family gathered at the Cultural and Wellness Center to celebrate Jenkins’ service to local government.
Jenkins began his 31-year career with the county in 1982 as the Emergency Management Coordinator and Water Supervisor. The next year he became Water Supervisor and played an integral role in the construction of the beginning phases of the county water system.
In 1992, Jenkins became director of the Public Works Department. He was eventually appointed to Interim County Manager and on May 1, 2001 he became County Manager.
Jenkins also served in the North Carolina National Guard for 22 years.
Chief 6B District Court Judge Thomas Jones Jr., who was master of ceremonies, reminded those in attendance of Jenkins’ dedication to Northampton County.
“Wayne, when he leaves here today, will be working,” Jones said. “This is his last day, but he says he will go and do whatever tonight, and he will lock his keys inside the door. And that should tell you what type of person, what type of man that this county is losing.”
Northampton County Commission Chair Robert Carter recalled the accomplishments in Jenkins career.
“We have assembled here today to say farewell to Wayne Jenkins, who is retiring after 31 years of service to the citizens of NorthamptonCounty in different capacities,” he said.
Carter noted Jenkins’ early involvement in expanding the county-wide water system and how in Jenkins’ career twilight the system is now entering one of its last phases.
Carter also mentioned other growth and development Jenkins assisted in, which included the first Northampton County curbside trash collection (one of the first in the state), restoration of the Northampton County Courthouse, construction of the new Emergency Operations Building, the Cultural and Wellness Center and Recreational Complex, the expansion of the Northampton County Memorial Library, NCCAR, recruiting of Lowes and Enviva, and the construction of the new Department of Social Services building.
“Mr. Jenkins, on behalf of the 22,000 citizens of this county, thank you for a job well done over the past 31 years,” Carter said.
Carter was joined by his fellow board members, who also gave accolades to Jenkins.
“I think Mr. Jenkins chose a work that he loves, and I don’t think that he considers it to be work,” Commissioner Joseph Barrett said. “I want to thank you Mr. Jenkins for indoctrinating a new commissioner, wet behind the ears, not knowing exactly what to expect or how to react. …He’s been one of the most professional people that I have ever known.”
Commission Vice Chair Virginia Spruill reflected when Jenkins first came on board as county manager in 2001, the same year Spruill was elected to the board.
“We were both as scared as we could be,” she said. “The word retirement means different things to different people. I hope it will give you time to reflect and enjoy life, try something new, imagine to possibilities, remind yourself to play, expect adventures, make new things, entertain a few wild ideas, take time for just you. For all that you have done and for all that you have achieved I am wishing you the time of your life.”
Commissioner Fannie Greene said Jenkins has been a wonderful County Manager.
“We are truly going to miss him,” she said. “County Manager, after almost 12 years I can say that we are still friends, and that I think is a plus when you can be friends after 12 years and we don’t always agree, but we can agree to disagree. …Today we celebrate you, we honor you and we appreciate you. Thank you for all that you’ve done.”
Commissioner Chester Deloatch thanked Jenkins for the job he has done and wished the best for Jenkins and his family.
The commissioners presented Jenkins with a globe statue for his service.
During the ceremony, a representative from State House Representative Michael Wray along with the help of Northampton County Economic Development Commission Director Gary Brown presented Jenkins with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a prestigious honor bestowed by the governor.
“When Wayne uses the word ‘we’ it’s not the little ‘we’—you and me—it’s the big ‘we’, all of us,” said Brown.
Sheriff Wardie Vincent and Jackson Police Chief John Young also commended Jenkins for his service.
“He’s second to none, to be honest with you,” said Vincent. “I’ve had the pleasure of working under three county managers and not all of them has been as understanding as him. I can remember us being in some really tight situations and I never remember him saying, ‘No, we can’t do it’. He’d say, ‘Let’s figure it out’.”
Young said Jenkins has been a great resource and friend.
“When I watched Wayne go about his duties, he was the consummate public servant,” he said.
County department heads thanked Jenkins for his support through the years and family and friends remarked on Jenkins personally.
At the end of the ceremony, Jenkins along with his wife, Donna, his children and grandchildren took the stage.
“Thank you all for being here today,” he said. “It has been an honor and a pleasure and I want to thank you for the opportunity to have served you in the capacities that I have. The Lord blessed me with this opportunity. He blessed me with a loving, caring and supportive family.”
He credited Donna for being his inspiration and giving him confidence in himself.
“Thank you, it’s been a wonderful experience,” he said. “And as I move into another phase of my life, you can see why it’s time for me to do that, I’ll always take the memories that I have of each of you.”