BY KEVIN GRIFFIN firstname.lastname@example.org Hickory Daily Record
Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 11:10 pm
HICKORY – As Mick Berry takes over as county manager, he is emphasizing the importance of working with the community and county leaders to build a vision for the area.
Berry was one of 42 candidates considered by county commissioners in the months-long search to replace long-time county manager Tom Lundy, according to a press release.
The decision to apply required a great deal of thought and prayer, Berry said.
“My wife and I really pondered that a lot because we’ve got some really good things going on here in Hickory. So, it was kind of balancing seeing those through versus the opportunity to really serve a broader spectrum of the community through the county government, and ultimately felt like that was a really good fit for me,” Berry said.
Berry has held a number of positions in the area in the past three decades. He served as a budget analyst and assistant Catawba County manager before taking his current job as Hickory city manager in 2004. He also served as a county manager of Granville County from 1995 to 1997.
Tuesday marked the first time since 1979 that Catawba County has had a new manager.
The fact that Berry has had so much experience in the local government will likely make the transition easier, former County Manager Tom Lundy said.
“I think he brings a lot of attributes and skills to the table that are going to make the transition as easy as it could be, given that change is change,” Lundy said.
Lundy and Berry have had meetings to discuss the transition, Lundy said.
Berry’s vision for the community was one thing that appealed to the commission, Board Chairman Randall Isenhower said.
In his conversations with Isenhower, Berry used the expression “skate to where the puck is going, not where it is,” Isenhower said.
“I see his vision as overall dynamic, and I think that phrase means we’re not going to try to get to where we are; we’re going to look at where we’re going and then work toward that,” Isenhower said. “Not necessarily where we are going, but where the pieces of the puzzle are going that we need to put together and work toward that point in the future.
“I think his vision is with the future overall,” Isenhower said.
Economic growth and attracting millennials are two of the big issues facing the county, Berry said.
“I look at it from the standpoint of what do we have to do as a county be competitive, to win the people, to win the jobs, to grow our population? I think that is kind of a No. 1 for all of us,” Berry said.
Investing in quality of life issues like education, recreation and affordability are important to making the area a good place to live, Berry said.
“I think we’ve got all of those ingredients that now the community can continue to figure out how do we want to use those and maximize those to grow and to be a place that young folks want to come, especially young families,” Berry said.
At the same time, Berry sees his role as building a consensus with county leaders and the broader community about a vision for the county.
“I think it's important to point out that it’s not about one person’s vision for the community. I’m just one of the people who’s involved in helping the commissioners really clarify their vision, engage the community and where they want to go as a community and then the commissioners really to kind of hone that and prioritize things,” Berry said.
Despite challenges in areas like workforce, Berry believes the future of the county is bright.
“I guess I would just say I’m optimistic. I think we’ve had some really tough times, we’ve worked through those, we’ll still have some tough times in the future, but overall I’m really optimistic about the projection of prosperity and growth, and continuing to be a great place,” Berry said.