BY MICHELLE T. BERNARD, O-N-E Reporter
Mick Berry started his first day as Catawba County's manager on Tuesday. It's almost a homecoming for Berry to be back in the Government Center.
Berry served in various positions in Catawba County for 15 years, including as assistant county manager until 2004. He was the Hickory city manager from August 2004 to July 2016.
"You can see the construction and the positive aspects of that," said Berry referencing the positive improvements he's seen to Catawba County since he left to be Hickory city manager. "You don't necessarily think of them in the community as positive but they are part of the community - you've got to have space for jail, your courtrooms and court system."
Berry also noted the new schools built in Catawba County as positive advancements since he left.
"The investment in education has continued so those are some of the great outward manifestations that I think everybody in the community has seen," he said.
Continuing to be more competitive in attracting people and jobs to Catawba County is something that Berry feels needs continued work.
"Obviously we all love this community and we think it has a lot to offer but it's not sufficient for those of us who have already made this home to pat ourselves on the back and say 'wow, isn't this great,'" he said. "We've got to be a place where people in the region find desirable, want to bring their businesses here, and want to locate their families here if they get a job."
Berry referenced his firsthand anecdotal experience with people coming to work at CommScope in Hickory but wanting to live in the Charlotte area as opposed to the Hickory, Conover, Newton area.
"We've got to change that," he said. "We've got to be such a desirable place that when people take jobs here they want to live here. We've got to be so desirable that people who might have a job in Charlotte decide they want to live here.
"We need those talented energetic people living here and investing in this community."
As far as projects that Berry wants to undertake in his role as county manager, he said that it wasn't about him and what he thinks. It was about what we as a community think we need and really honing that vision with the county commissioners and the community and saying, 'okay to accomplish that vision, here are the top three of four things that I feel like and we as a community feel like we need to do to accomplish that vision.'
"I really see that as being my role for the next probably year or so - to help the commissioners and the community get laser-focused on what it is they want to accomplish - who do we want to be in the next generation as a community," Berry said. "It's a collaborate, community decision."
Berry admits that "it's a little intimidating" to be taking over after Tom Lundy's tenure as county manager but he's excited about it.
"After being here basically my whole adult life I feel like I'm pretty versed in the community and can help us move forward," he said.
Berry holds a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and Masters of Public Administration degree from Brigham Young University, is an International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) Credentialed Manager and a member of the North Carolina City and County Management Association (NCCCMA), according to a press release. He also is a graduate of the Senior Executive Institute, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia and serves as a member of several community organizations in Catawba County.