Last Tuesday night Macon County Commissioners unanimously voted to hire Franklin native Derek Roland as the next county manager. The application process to replace long-time county manager Jack Horton began after Horton announced his retirement earlier this year. For the past three months, commissioners reviewed the 38 applications received and carefully considered each applicant's requirements. After narrowing the applicant pool to two individuals and conducting extensive interviews with both candidates, the unanimous decision was made to offer the job to Roland at an annual salary of $100,000.
“I am humbled that five men who have been elected by the citizens of Macon County to make the decisions which they feel are best for the county would unanimously choose me as county manager,” said Roland. “Serving as county manger in the county where I was born and raised is the greatest honor I have ever received.”
During a continuation meeting of the board, commissioners touted Roland’s knowledge of the county and its citizens, as well as his knowledge of the challenges and opportunities Macon County faces as being invaluable in making Roland a successful leader for the county.
“I am proud of the man Derek has become and the county manager he will become,”said Commissioner Ronnie Beale. “We have some of the most experienced department heads in the state for him to learn from, and I am confident he will be excellent in this position.”
An avid outdoorsman, Roland was born and raised in Franklin. He graduated from Franklin High School in 2003 before going on to attend Western Carolina University, where he graduated in 2007 with a B.S. degree in Business Administration and Law. Roland is set to graduate in December with a 4.0 GPA from WCU with a Masters degree in Public Administration. Through his academic excellence, Roland is a member of the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and Phi Kappa Phi Elite Honor Society.
Prior to beginning his career in public service, Roland worked for Unique Properties as a licensed North Carolina Real Estate Broker. He served as the Macon County Planner from March 2009 to March 2012, and from April 2012 to present, Roland has served as the Land Use Administrator for the Town of Franklin. Commissioners cited Roland's experience in both county and town government as being one of the many attributes that led to the unanimous vote.
In addition to Roland's professional experience within the county, commissioners explained that his volunteer efforts speak volumes to Roland's commitment to Macon County. Currently, Roland is the chairman of the Macon County Planning Board, is on the board of the Community Foundation, serves on the Parker Mathis Scholarship Committee and is also a member of the steering committee for Gilliam’s Hope.
“I do not think there is a better individual that knows Macon County or its people,” said Commissioner Jimmy Tate. “Derek probably knows the people in Macon County better than I do.”
When asked why he decided to pursue the position of county manager, Roland explained that in the last five years he has made many life changing decisions to guide him to where he is now. “I have made many 'life changing' decisions during the past five years in my personal and professional life,” said Roland. “Whether it be choosing to build a house on my grandfather's land, pursuing an advanced degree in public administration, or transitioning in my career to the Town of Franklin; the opportunity to someday serve as county manager for Macon County has played a role in each of those decisions.”
Roland views his new role as county manager as being an opportunity to make a difference in a community that has shaped the person he has become. “More than anything, being county manager allows me to give something back to the people of Macon County who have given me so much,” said Roland. “I am proud to say that I am a product of the Macon County School System, the Franklin High School Athletic Program, Western Carolina University and last, but certainly not least, Oakdale Baptist Church. My family, friends, teachers, coaches, and coworkers have helped shape me into the man I am today; we have laughed together, cried together, won some and lost some. These people are the reason I come to work every day. They deserve a county government that functions efficiently and effectively as it carries out the goals of the commission. Having the opportunity to serve as county manager will allow me to play a role in seeing to it that this is accomplished.”
As the county manager, Roland views his position as being a guide and resource for the board of commissioners and the citizens of Macon County. “As manager I feel it is my duty to see that all goals set by the commission are accomplished. I have no personal agenda,” said Roland. “I am 100 percent confident that each one of our commissioners have the best interests of Macon County at heart, and it will be my pleasure to work alongside very competent department heads and employees to see to it that these goals are accomplished.”
Before voting to hire Roland, commissioners expressed concern regarding Roland's lack of experience in the direct position as manager. Understanding their concern, Roland plans to work diligently to ensure that experience is never a factor. “Whether you have 20 years management experience or zero, any new manager coming into an organization has to first gain the trust of the employees before they will view him or her as an effective leader,” said Roland. “As I mentioned earlier, I have the highest level of respect for each employee in this organization. I respect their commitment to serve Macon County day in and day out and understand that many times the jobs they perform are often thankless ones. There are people in this organization that have proudly served Macon County for 15, 20, and even 30-plus years. I admit that I do not know everything and people that claim to know everything scare me.”
Tate cited specific apprehension regarding the difficulties surrounding the financial aspect of manager in regards to developing the annual budget. Roland plans to work with department heads to learn the ins and outs of the budget process. “I feel Macon County has one of the best finance officers in the state with Lori Hall and the finance department is second to none as well,” said Roland. “I will rely on these individuals within the organization as well as those individuals which have preceded them and together have made Macon County one of the most financially stable government organizations in North Carolina year after year.”
Recent projects within the county have garnered split votes on the board of commissioners. Roland, who, as manager, will be tasked with providing commissioners with factual, unbiased, information intended for the betterment of citizens in Macon County, believes the partisan politics will not be a factor moving forward. “As a manager it is not my role to play politics,” said Roland. “The governing board has been elected by the citizens of Macon County to set the course for this organization to follow. My role is to steer the organization down that course. Whether this course is set by a vote of 3-2 or 5-0 the voice of the majority is the voice by which this course is set.”